The number of people dying from influenza continued to grow last week. In California, 52 more deaths were attributed to this season’s flu called H1N1. Nationwide the mortality in 122 U.S. cities exceeded the epidemic threshold.

For California, 147 deaths have been confirmed as influenza-related and another 44 deaths are under investigation, according to county, state and federal reports. In comparison, for the entire 2012-13 flu season, 106 people died from confirmed flu virus.

Five of the deaths this year have occurred in Riverside County. Visits to Riverside County emergency departments for influenza-like illnesses were nearly 11 percent of all patients and above normal limits. Visits to physicians were also above normal levels.

Those at highest risk — the elderly, pregnant women, infants or those with other health conditions — who show flu symptoms should contact their physician immediately in order to get the most effective treatment. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.

“This influenza season continues to be a severe one as the increasing number of influenza-related deaths indicates,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health and state health officer. “Once again I urge all Californians to get vaccinated, because it is the best defense against influenza.”

Influenza vaccine remains available and there is no widespread shortage of anti-virals for treatment. CDPH continues to closely monitor influenza activity statewide and related resources.