SAN MATEO (CBS SF) — Two more Bay Area counties reported their first flu-related deaths of the season on Thursday. A woman in her 40s died in San Mateo County, and a 23-year-old in Sonoma County also succumbed to the virus.
Health officials in San Mateo County said there have been six other flu-related hospitalizations in that county. The individual who died in Sonoma County was previously healthy. Health officials said this was the only influenza death in Sonoma County, although eight cases of severe influenza have been reported to date.
The H1N1 influenza strain, known as “swine flu”, appears to be the main strain afflicting people this flu season.
Of the nine deaths in recent weeks from this outbreak, three cases saw victims in their 40s, who were otherwise healthy adults, including a 48-year-old woman in Marin County.
The woman who died Thursday in San Mateo County did have some underlying medical conditions, according to county health official Robyn Thaw. In a statement, Thaw stressed that people without underlying medical problems can still have a severe case of the flu that could lead to hospitalization and possibly death.
Peak flu season is between January and March.
There have been dozens of swine flu-related hospital admissions in the Bay Area. Dr. Matt Willis, the Marin County health officer said people of all ages can be affected, whether they are healthy or not. Willis added that it’s particularly disturbing that people as young as their 40s were being fatally struck by the virus.
Health officials across the Bay Area were urging residents to get a flu vaccination as a result.
Sonoma, San Mateo, Alameda Contra Costa and Contra Costa counties have all reported at least one death from the strain, while Santa Clara and Marin counties have reported at least two deaths.
Dr. John Swartzberg, a Clinical Professor of Medicine at UC Berkeley, and expert on infectious diseases, said when you get a flu vaccination it does cover H1N1 and in general, it gives up to 70 percent protection, but that it varies from year-to-year.
Swartzberg noted that the emergence of this virus was first reported in Mexico in 2009 and later identified around the 2009-2010 flu season in California.
“It wasn’t too bad in the next few years, but this year it seems to have reemerged as a really serious problem,” he said.
When asked about people who complain or claim that they get sick after getting their flu vaccination, Swartzberg said, “The vaccine cannot give you influenza or other infectious disease. The vaccine takes about two weeks to work.”
He also dispelled the myth that any stomach bug, which people commonly call “stomach flu”, is not influenza.
His general guidelines to stop the spread of flu is for adults to stay home if they have symptoms for 5 to 7 days and even longer for children.
Health officials are urging vaccinations for everyone ages 6 months and older. This year’s vaccine protects against H1N1.
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