Healthy Choices

Woman dies of flu, bringing death toll to 18 in Sacramento County

Yet another person was reported dead of the flu Tuesday, Sacramento County health officials said, with the total number of county fatalities under 65 years old mounting to 18, two more than what the county saw last year at this time.

State officials have counted 95 deaths under 65, and said they anticipated confirming an additional 51 cases that counties have reported, possibly as early as Friday.

Meanwhile, communities in the region were scurrying to organize immunization clinics, after a no-cost flu shot clinic offered to Yolo County residents drew 400 people last weekend.

The predominant flu strain circulating is the same H1N1 virus that spread quickly in 2009, sparking a worldwide pandemic. But all of the influenza vaccines developed this year for North America contain that same so-called A/California/07/2009-like (H1N1) strain in order to battle the virus’ resurgence, according to the California Department of Public Health Influenza Surveillance Program.

That means if people get immunizations, they are far less likely to get sick than they were in 2009, when vaccines did not contain the H1N1 component, said Dr. Olivia Kasirye.

Kasirye urged residents to get vaccinated, if not for concerns over their own health, for the safety of loved ones who may be vulnerable.

Some retail outlets said they were short of supply and others reported being sold out of the vaccines. Still, people can go to clinicians to receive immunizations.

At Sacramento State, health clinic staff say they’ve vaccinated 2,744 students against the flu and hope to increase that number during the first weeks of the spring semester. Flu shots are free for students and immunizations are available daily. Students are advised to call 278-6461 for information from the campus’ Clinical Operations.

In Yolo County, the health department is offering a fourth special free flu vaccine clinic on Feb. 5 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at West Sacramento City Hall, located at 1110 W. Capitol Avenue. Officials echoed other health experts’ concerns that the H1N1 virus disproportionately affects younger adults, people with chronic medical conditions, children and pregnant women, especially in the third trimester.

“The special free flu vaccine clinic in Woodland this past weekend was a huge success with 79 volunteers assisting in providing flu vaccine to over 400 residents,” said Yolo County Health Officer Dr. Constance Caldwell.

Five Yolo County residents have been admitted to an intensive care unit with influenza-like symptoms. In Sacramento County, emergency medical staff have hospitalized 84 patients in intensive care units for the flu. Sacramento County’s fatalities include 10 women and eight men.

The flu death counts do not include individuals over 65, a highly vulnerable group, because officials wanted to use a reporting system that tracked how severe a flu season would be to the general population.

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

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