The number of confirmed influenza-related deaths in California doubled last week. During the week ending Jan. 18, 50 more people under age 65 died from influenza, for a total of 95 confirmed flu deaths this flu season, including three children, according to Dr. Gil Chavez, deputy director of the Center for Infectious Diseases at the California Department of Public Health.
“Influenza activity remains at levels considered widespread,” he reported during a Friday teleconference. “Influenza-like, illness-related outpatient visits and hospitalizations continue to exceed the expected levels at this time of year, but did decrease from the previous week.”
At this time in 2013, only nine deaths were confirmed as influenza-related. For the entire 2012-13 flu season, a total of 106 persons died due to influenza.
Another 51 deaths have been reported to California after the Jan. 18 report was completed. The state is still investigating these deaths. If they are confirmed as flu-related, the total flu deaths already in 2013-14 will be 146 and perhaps two more months of the flu season.
This year’s predominant active flu strain is H1N1, which was responsible for the 2009-10 pandemic when nearly 600 Californians succumbed to the virus. Officials cannot explain why the severity and virulence of this particular strain is more able to infect people under age 65.
“Influenza is more severe in people with chronic conditions and frequently elderly people over 65 have a greater proportion of chronic health problems and are more likely to have a bad outcome from influenza,” Chavez said.
Despite the decline in flu activity, such as visits and hospitalizations, Chavez said it was too early to determine if the flu season had peaked or if this was merely a temporary drop.
He still encouraged Californians to obtain a flu vaccine and said there are no shortages of the vaccine. Nearly 80 percent of the confirmed deaths were people who failed to get a vaccination.
Category: Regional News