On Friday, Jan. 18, Riverside County officials announced that a 22-year-old Hemet man and a 4-year-old Perris girl died last week. Both tested positive for influenza virus; “though Riverside County health officials are saying the cause of death has not been determined.”

Nevertheless, the circumstances re-enforce state and federal officials’ recommendations that it is still prudent for people at risk for flu to get a shot.

“Activity has increased slightly throughout Riverside County,’ confirmed Barbara Cole, director of Disease Control for Riverside County Department of Public Health. “But no individual area stands out as a more significant location of new flu cases.”

Also on Friday, Dr. Gil Chavez, chief epidemiologist for the California Department of Public Health, said flu activity is expanding throughout much of the state. Visits to emergency rooms and the percentages of influenza detections exceed what is expected at this point in the flu season; consequently, the state reported “widespread levels” of flu this week to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

While flu is spreading in California, Dr. Tom Frieden, director of CDC, said in a Friday press conference that “It’s shaping up to be a worse than average season and a bad season particularly for the elderly. Last week, hospitalization rates increased sharply in people 65 and over.”

He stressed there is still time to obtain a flu vaccination and recommended that everyone 6 months old and older receive a flu vaccination each year.

Twenty-nine children have already died from flu this season, compared to 34 in 2011-12, according to Frieden. However, medical officials stress that last year’s flu season was abnormally light.

The current flu season appears to have started earlier than previous years, perhaps as much as a month earlier, according to Frieden, who added, “overall activity is beginning to go down … but some parts of the country, particularly in the West, are showing increases.”

Flu clinics are scheduled at the county’s 10 Family Care Centers. Flu clinic hours are 8 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. Appointments can be made by calling (800) 720-9553.

The three clinics closest to Idyllwild are in Hemet, Banning or Palm Springs:

  • Hemet Family Care Center, 880 N. State St., Hemet, CA 92543. Phone number: (951) 766-2450.
  • Banning Family Care Center, 3055 W. Ramsey, Banning, CA 92220. Phone number: (951) 849-6794
  • Palm Springs Family Care Center, 1515 North Sunrise Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262. Phone number: (760) 778-2210

For all clinics locations, call (800) 720-9553 or visit www.rivcofamilycarecenters.org/flu.htm.