By Devin Fehely

(KPIX 5) — Health officials are reminding people that it’s not too late to get vaccinated against the flu after the deaths of two people from the Bay Area under the age of 40.

“It is true that perfectly healthy younger adults are at lower risk from getting severely sick or dying from the flu. But they’re still at some risk. So, because there is some risk, you should just get the flu shot. It’s really easy to do. It’s readily available,” said Santa Clara County Deputy Health Officer Dr. George Han.

It’s a message that hits close to home for friends of 38-year-old Vince Harris who died over the weekend from complications from the flu while visiting family outside California.

“Just a mellow, nice, friendly person. He was so kind,” said fellow motorcycle enthusiast Lauren Yamasaki-Kramer.

Harris and Yamasaki-Kramer were members of Lane Splitters, a motorcycle club for Harley Davidson enthusiasts. She last saw him at a meeting before Christmas and says the husband and father and draftsman with a local engineering firm appeared to be good health and goods spirits. He was planning an upcoming ride and preparing to take on a leadership role in the organization.

“He seemed fine as usual — healthy. I don’t think he even had a cold at that meeting,” Yamasaki-Kramer said.

Health officials say Harris’s death is a reminder that the disease can strike even outside the groups most vulnerable to infection — the very old and young and those with other medical issues.

According to the CDC, an estimated 80,000 people in the U.S. died from the flu last year. Meanwhile, health officials say only a fraction of Americans — 37 percent of adults and 58 percent of children — take advantage of the most effective means of avoiding infection by getting the annual vaccine.

It is a decision, Harris’ friends say, that can be deadly.

“We don’t take that word ‘influenza’ seriously enough,” Yamasaki-Kramer said.


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