Health & Medicine

Sacramento County’s flu deaths rise to 14, county officials report

Despite unseasonably mild weather, Sacramento County has logged another three deaths due to severe influenza, health officials said Wednesday, bringing the death toll so far to 14, just two shy of last year’s end-of-season count of 16.

With several more weeks remaining in the peak flu season, 74 people were hospitalized with life-threatening, flu-like symptoms in intensive care units throughout the area, county public health officials said, an increase of 10 people over the 64 reported hospitalized last Friday.

Of the deceased, seven were men and seven were women, county officials said. Some suffered from underlying medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes, which may have left them with weakened immune systems.

All those who died were between 18 and 64 years old, underscoring how the H1N1 flu virus prevalent this year is unusual in that it has not struck the very young or the very old, populations typically seen as most vulnerable to severe influenza.

The H1N1 virus is a variation of the influenza A strain that led to a worldwide pandemic in 2009. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that because of the re-emergence of H1N1 this year’s flu season may be deadlier than were the last couple of seasons, when other strains predominated. CDC officials said they expected this year’s flu season to be especially dangerous for young adults and middle-aged adults, even those who are otherwise healthy.

Flu viruses circulating this year include the H1N1, plus influenza A and influenza B. All three viral strains are targeted by this year’s flu shot, which CDC, county and state officials recommend for people over 6 months of age.

“A person’s decision to receive the vaccination or not impacts the entire community,” said Sacramento County public health officer Olivia Kasirye. “A yearly flu vaccine not only protects the individual from illness, but also those nearby.”

She said flu shots are especially important for caregivers and for those around the elderly, babies and children with asthma.

Symptoms of the flu, a respiratory disease, include fatigue, nasal congestion, cough, fever, body aches and headaches. The illness usually lasts two to seven days. Before returning to work, people should have a period of at least 24 hours without a fever.

County officials said it was impossible to determine whether those who died or are hospitalized received vaccinations against the flu.

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