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Daniel Arroyo, 9 of Elk Grove reacts to getting her flu vaccine by RN Six Recio as her mother Vicky Arroyo waits for her turn during a Kaiser Permanente community flu vaccine in Sacramento in February. Even as the flu season winds down, officials say deaths from the virus mount in the state.

California’s flu death toll rises to 318 rise even as widespread influenza activity decreases

Published: Friday, Mar. 7, 2014 - 11:12 pm
Last Modified: Friday, Mar. 7, 2014 - 11:19 pm

As the flu season winds down, the number of statewide deaths due to severe influenza continues to rise – to 318 people under the age of 65 – as California public health officials investigate additional cases still trickling in from counties.

By Friday, California had seen three times the number of deaths reported in all of last year’s flu season, which took the lives of 106 people.

Another 26 deaths are under investigation and likely will increase the 2013-14 flu fatality toll, state officials said. Six children in all have perished because of the flu so far.

The H1N1 virus circulating this season has been especially virulent, causing sudden and severe illness in many individuals who have gone straight to intensive care units once they’ve been admitted to hospitals.

Sacramento County, with 28 dead, saw early severe flu activity and was outpacing the rest of the state for a while. In Southern California, however, Los Angeles County is now reporting at least 52 deaths, San Diego at least 27 and San Bernardino, 23.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has downgraded influenza activity from a regional hazard to a local one within California. At one point in the season, the flu was deemed widespread across the entire state.

Still, Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, urged people especially at risk – those 65 and over, pregnant women, infants or those with chronic health conditions – to contact a doctor immediately if they show symptoms, which include vomiting, fever, headaches, cough, sore throat, muscle or body aches and fatigue. Anti-viral medications are available through physicians, and work best the faster they are administered.

Public health officials are still advising people to get vaccinated because flu seasons can spike again after leveling off. Currently, outpatient visits by people with influenza-like illnesses continue to decrease and hospitalizations are within a normal, expected range for this time of year.

Call The Bee’s Cynthia H. Craft, (916) 321-1270.

Read more articles by Cynthia H. Craft

About Healthy Choices

Cynthia CraftCynthia H. Craft began her reporting and editing career in Columbus, Ohio, after graduating from Ohio State University. She worked at a Dallas, Texas, newspaper as an editor, and then at the Los Angeles Times, as an editor and Capitol Bureau correspondent. After working as editor in chief at the California Journal, Craft went to Lima, Peru, for three years as a visiting professor of journalism at Peruana Universidad de Ciencias Aplicadas. She was a fellow in 2012 at the National Library for Medicine in Washington, D.C. at the National Institute for Health. She's currently The Sacramento Bee's senior writer on health, a position made possible by a grant from The California Endowment.

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Note: The Healthy Choices blog switched blog platforms in August 2013. All posts after the switch are found here. Older posts are available using the list below.

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