SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF & CNN) — A Monterey County resident has died as a result of an infection of the influenza virus — one of 10 deaths statewide — as the flu season gets underway.
The California Department of Public Health reported that 10 people under age 65 had died from influenza-related illness statewide. The state does not track flu-related deaths among people age 65 and older.
Typically, officials said, they were have expected one, two or no deaths at all at this time of year.
California is one of 49 states and Puerto Rico that have reported either regional or widespread flu activity during the week ending December 23, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent surveillance report.
Nationwide, 12 children have died due to flu this season, while a total of 2,485 flu-related hospitalizations — nearly nine for every 100,000 people — have been reported so far. The highest rate of hospitalization was among adults 65 or older, followed by adults between 50 and 64 and then children up to 4 years old.
Experts believe the flu virus is spread when a sick person talks, sneezes or coughs. Common symptoms include fever and chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle and body aches, headaches and fatigue. Despite these painful symptoms, most people will recover in less than two weeks.
If you believe you are coming down with the flu, the CDC recommends you follow these simple steps.
The CDC recommends people at high risk for complications from the flu be treated with neuraminidase inhibitor antiviral medications as soon as possible once they become sick. Flu complications, such as pneumonia, can result in hospitalization or even death.
Antiviral drugs work best when given within two days of getting sick. A positive flu test result is not necessary for a health care provider to prescribe an antiviral medication. Three such prescription medications are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and recommended this season: oseltamivir, available as Tamiflu or a generic; zanamivir (Relenza); and peramivir (Rapivab).
People considered to be at high risk for complications include: hospitalized patients; patients with severe or progressive illnesses; cancer patients, HIV patients and those with compromised immune systems; nursing home or health facility residents; and children 5 years old and younger, adults 65 and older, women who are pregnant or within two weeks postpartum, people with asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and serious disorders.
The flu, unlike the common cold, begins abruptly. Out of the blue, you feel tired, your muscles ache and your forehead feels hot. There’s no need to fight or bravely go to work. Stay home and stay warm, the CDC recommends. In fact, it’s best if you remain at home and away from others for at least 24 hours after your fever breaks so you don’t infect people who are well.
If you suspect or know you have the flu, you should avoid touching or coming into close contact with others to prevent them from becoming sick. In shared households, anyone who has the flu should be in a separate sick room. Sick rooms can be shared with others who are sick and in households with more than one bathroom, sick people should use one while well people use the other.
It’s also important to use your own drinking glass, washcloth and towel when you are sick. Whatever you touch should be disinfected.
Most of the illness and hospitalizations so far this season have been caused by influenza A (H3N2) viruses, the CDC reported Wednesday in an official advisory. In past years, the flu shot has been least effective against A (H3N2) viruses compared to other A or B strain flu viruses. And, whenever this strain of flu virus has caused most of the sickness, more hospitalizations and deaths occurred in both young children and in people 65 and older, compared to other age groups.
Brendan Flannery, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s flu division, said that “the important thing for people to know is that we think that the flu vaccine will prevent some illness that’s caused by the current circulating viruses.”
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, told CNN previously that “when we measure vaccine effectiveness, that’s effectiveness against protecting against disease completely.” Schaffner is also a liaison representative of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which develops vaccine recommendations for the CDC.
What’s not measured, he said, is what happens if you get the flu. Those who were vaccinated and still get the flu are “less likely to have the complications of pneumonia, having to be hospitalized and dying,” said Schaffner.
Schaffner said, “No matter what the dominant strain is, there are other strains out there that produce influenza and the vaccine is often very good at protecting against those.”
You don’t need a prescription to get the vaccine from a pharmacy and virtually every insurance plan covers it, he added.
“Walk in and roll up your sleeve,” said Schaffner.
The-CNN-Wire contributed to this report. ™ & © 2017 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.