Aggressive Flu Strain Now Widespread In California

FREMONT (AP/KCBS)—California health officials say that the flu is now widespread throughout the state, and that one new death of person under 65 has been reported, bringing this season’s flu-related deaths to five people.

Dr. James Watt, the state’s communicable disease chief, said flu activity has seen a steep increase in recent weeks and is expected to peak in February.

The announcement comes just after the report of the first Bay Area flu-related death of the season — a 98-year-old woman from Santa Clara.

KCBS’ Anna Duckworth:

At Washington Hospital in Fremont Thursday, residents like Ruthann Hunt lined up at a public vaccination, one of several in the Bay Area, where injections were given for $10.

“I don’t want to get the flu. I’ve already had a small bout of it this year, so I thought I needed to get that done.” she said.

While California has had fairly mild flu seasons over the past two years, this year is expected to be worse.

“We’ve definitely seen a heavier volume increase of flu related illnesses compared to last couple of years,” Dr. Kadeer Halimi, an emergency room physician.

“Especially last week, we’ve had a significant rise in young kids as well as patients from nursing homes,” said Halimi.

But flu vaccines are readily available in the Bay Area and Dr. Halimi said it’s never too late in the season to get one.

Officials said everyone over six months old should be vaccinated, but particularly vulnerable groups include:
– pregnant women
– children younger than five years old
– adults age 65 or older
– those with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease or diabetes
– people living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities
– those who care for at high-risk, including health care and day care workers.

The flu vaccine takes two weeks to become effective. The flu accounts for more than 23,000 deaths in America each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The website Health Map Vaccine Finder can help you track down nearby vaccines using your zip code. (Follow-up phone calls are still recommended as availability can change quickly).
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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