Healthy Choices

As the flu season simmers down, the death count continues to mount

State public health officials released another grim statistic on Friday, bumping the number of flu deaths in Californians up to 332.

That’s 14 more than tallied last week, and Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the state department of public health, said his crew is looking at another 19 deaths reported by counties. If confirmed, next week’s death toll from seasonal influenza will grow to 351 statewide.

Last year at this time, there were 47 flu fatalities reported. The entire flu season in 2012-2013 claimed less than one-third of those who’ve already died this year.

The numbers do not include people 65 and older, a demographic group epidemiologists exclude because they are trying to predict and prepare for the flu’s course through the general population.

Still, in Sacramento County, seasonal influenza activity seems to be decreasing. There have been no new deaths reported for a couple of weeks, in contrast with sharp increases seen in February.

In the greater capital region, Placer County stands alone now as the only county to report zero flu deaths. Yolo County had one; Sacramento, 28; and El Dorado County, two.

Chapman is encouraging everybody to get a flu shot, even as the flu season is winding down. This year’s flu has resulted in more deaths of young adults and healthy middle-aged people than usual, although most of those who died had underlying medical conditions compromising their health.

Chapman also announced his department also has received reports of 32 confirmed cases of measles thoughout the state, although none occurred in the four-county Sacramento region. Vaccinations against the measles are widely available, and Chapman is urging the public to focus on prevention.