Although deaths in California from influenza virus rose to 278 people under ages 65, other signs indicate that the flu season is beginning to abate.

In California, both outpatient visits and hospitalizations have decreased for two consecutive weeks and are within or below levels that would be expected at this point in the flu season. Nationwide the number of visits to health-care providers for influenza-like illnesses decreased last week.

“We’re clearly seeing a steady decline in activity over this period,” said Dr. Gil Chavez, deputy director of the Center for Infectious Diseases at the California Department of Public Health. “The outpatient visitors declined to below-expected levels and hospital patients decreased. It’s fortuitous that that’s slowing down. By April, the season should calm down.”

Last week in Riverside County, both indicators continued to decline gradually from two weeks ago. Visits to Riverside County emergency departments for influenza-like illness fell from 12 to 9.6 percent. Also, the number of students absent due to illness dropped from 13 to 7.6 percent last week, which is below the normal limits for this point in the flu season.

Last week another 35 influenza-related deaths were confirmed for a total of 278, of which six have been children. Ten deaths attributable to influenza have occurred in Riverside County. Another 29 deaths in people under age 65 are being investigated.

Three-quarters of reported influenza deaths in persons under age 65 have occurred in people with underlying medical conditions. Most of those with reported influenza deaths had an onset of illness in previous weeks.