Health & Medicine

Placer County reports its first flu-related death

Dr. Olivia Kasirye, Sacramento County public health officer, looks at a specimen at the Sacramento County Public Health Laboratory with Dr. Anthony Gonzalez,  laboratory director, and Sheri Tomkins,  microbiologist, on  Feb. 7. Placer County health officials reported on Friday they believe influenza is a contributing cause in a Placer County man’s death this week. Sacramento County has had one flu-related death of a patient under 65 years old so far in the 2014-2015 flu season.
Dr. Olivia Kasirye, Sacramento County public health officer, looks at a specimen at the Sacramento County Public Health Laboratory with Dr. Anthony Gonzalez, laboratory director, and Sheri Tomkins, microbiologist, on Feb. 7. Placer County health officials reported on Friday they believe influenza is a contributing cause in a Placer County man’s death this week. Sacramento County has had one flu-related death of a patient under 65 years old so far in the 2014-2015 flu season. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Placer County health officials reported Friday that they believe influenza is a contributing cause in a Placer County man’s death this week.

It was the first reported flu death of the season in Placer County. Two other individuals were reported to have been hospitalized in the intensive care unit with the flu. All three of the flu victims are under 65, as cases of flu in individuals over 65 are not reported to the county.

Placer County health officials did not release the name of the man, but they said he had at least one chronic health condition. Those most at risk for the flu are people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, children under 5 and people over the age of 65.

Dr. Robert Oldham, public health official for Placer County, said the most widely circulating strain of flu this season, H3N2, has drifted genetically from the strain used in vaccinations and is expected to be particularly severe.

“We are seeing a surge in influenza activity, and this unfortunate death is a reminder to all of us that the flu can be deadly and needs to be taken very seriously,” Oldham said.

He said getting a flu shot is still a viable protection against the flu.

“Though not as effective as previous years, getting vaccinated is still the best way to avoid the flu,” Oldham said. “And even if you do get sick, you are probably less likely to have complications from the flu if you are vaccinated.”

He said it’s not too late in the season to get the shot. Flu shots are generally available at doctor’s offices and pharmacies.

Oldham also recommended staying home if you feel sick to avoid spreading the flu, washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face and avoiding unnecessary hand shakes.

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.

Sacramento County has had one flu-related death of a patient under 65 years old so far in the 2014-2015 flu season. The Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services was unable to provide any other information about the patient.

The California Department of Public Health has reported four flu-related deaths between the October beginning of the flu season and Jan. 17, the most recent data point available.

According to a weekly influenza surveillance report prepared by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu season began having noticeable effects in California during the week of Dec. 22, six weeks after influenza activity began in other parts of the country.

California hit high levels of activity three weeks ago and remains on the high end of the spectrum, like most of the country.

Last year’s flu season was reported to be quite severe, claiming more than three times the number of lives in California as in the 2012-2013 season. Sacramento County had at least 28 flu-related deaths last year.

Health officials recommend contacting a physician if you show signs of the flu.

Call The Bee’s Ellen Garrison at (916) 321-1006.

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