News


Statewide flu-related deaths now total 45

3 confirmed flu deaths in Alameda County

California Department of Public Health officials said this weekend that there have been 45 confirmed influenza deaths statewide and 50 more suspected cases as of Jan. 11.

The 45 deaths include two pediatric deaths and the majority of the 45 deaths were of unvaccinated people, said Dr. Gil Chavez, deputy director

and state epidemiologist with the Department of Public Health's Center for Infectious Diseases.

Santa Clara County reported two more flu-related deaths today, bringing the Bay Area total to 23.

Two women, ages 52 and 62, passed away this week from the H1N1 virus, also known as "swine flu," Santa Clara County Public Health Department

spokeswoman Amy Cornell said today.

There have been three deaths in Alameda County.

Chavez said county public health departments are on the front lines regarding flu deaths and are the first to report them to the community.

"There will be a lag before they report them to us," Chavez said.

The California Department of Public Health is also not required to report flu deaths of people over age 65, Chavez said.

There were 106 flu deaths in California during the 2012-2013 season, Chavez said. He said the 2013-2014 flu season has not yet peaked.

The H1N1 "swine flu" strain is predominant this season, according to Chavez.

"We are clearly in the midst of what appears to be an earlier peaking, severe flu season, and I encourage everyone who has not yet gotten a flu vaccination to do so," California Department of Public Health director Dr. Ron Chapman said.

Public health officials did not have a regional breakdown of where the flu is hitting hardest. They said the flu has been reported statewide.

Dr. James Watt, chief of the state's Division of Communicable Disease Control, said there won't be data on the proportion of California's population that has been vaccinated until after the current flu season.

A predominant number of those under 65 who have died of the flu had underlying health conditions that put them more at risk, Watt said.

Those conditions typically include heart and lung disease, HIV, cancer and obesity, Watt said. Pregnant women also appear to be at risk of

contracting the H1N1 virus, he said.

This season's flu also is affecting young adults.

In Sonoma County, Matthew Walker, 23, of Santa Rosa succumbed to the flu.

Public health officials said there is plenty of influenza vaccine. The state public health department has purchased 50,000 doses for local

health departments.

There are also 290,000 federally purchased doses via the Vaccines for Children program, with the doses available for local health departments or private providers, according to the Department of Public Health.

There also is no known widespread shortage of anti-viral medication to treat the influenza, public health officials said.

In addition to the three deaths in Alameda County, there were three new flu-related deaths elessewhere in the Bay Area and two in Monterey County.

The recent reports brought the total number of flu-related deaths reported in the Bay Area to 21, most of them linked to the H1N1 strain of the virus, also known as the "swine flu."

Napa County reported its first confirmed flu-related death Wednesday, an 84-year-old man with multiple medical issues, according to county spokeswoman Elizabeth Emmett.

The county has not yet confirmed what strain the man had but is working on the assumption that it is probably H1N1, Emmett said.

The county also has five people currently hospitalized for the flu, and has had a total of 15 hospitalizations since Jan. 6, Emmett said.

Contra Costa County reported its second flu death this week, a 48-year-old man who died in December, but whose death was confirmed on Tuesday as being linked to the H1N1 strain.

Sonoma County also reported a third flu death confirmed to be linked to the swine flu that occurred this week in a 61-year-old woman with preexisting medical issues. The county reported the death of a 54-year on Tuesday and a 23-year-old male earlier this season.

Sonoma County has had a total of 12 severe cases of influenza since the season began, meaning patients were hospitalized in intensive care

or died, according to Dr. Karen Holbrook, the county's interim health officer.

Solano County reported its first death of the season on Tuesday after a Vallejo man in his 40s was confirmed as infected with the H1N1 strain.

The man had chronic medical conditions before he fell ill, according to Solano County officials.

There have also been 10 people hospitalized in Solano County with swine flu and other strains of influenza, according to health officials.

San Mateo County reported its second and third flu-related deaths this week on Monday and Tuesday, county health system spokeswoman Robyn Thaw said. Two of the three patients that died had underlying medical conditions and at least two of the cases were confirmed as H1N1.

Another eight people in the county have been hospitalized due to the flu, Thaw said.

In additional to those fatalities, there have been four deaths in Santa Clara County, three in Alameda County and two in Marin County. There has been one death each in Santa Cruz and San Francisco counties.

Outside the Bay Area, Monterey County also reported two deaths linked to swine flu today, both of them in adults under the age of 65.

Another six Monterey County residents under the age of 65 have been sick enough to require hospitalization in intensive care due to influenza, officials said today.

Health officials are urging everyone ages 6 months and older to get vaccinated. Those considered at highest risk are those 65 and older, children less than two years old, pregnant women and those with medical conditions like asthma, heart disease and weakened immune systems.

The peak of flu season is between January and March, and the vaccine takes about two weeks after inoculation to be fully effective, according to health officials.

James Lanaras and Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

— Bay City News Service

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