SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — A child and an adult have died in Santa Clara County of influenza, days before the official start of the 2019-2020 flu season on Oct. 1, health officials announced Tuesday.

Officials said the adult who died had other medical conditions that put the individual at increased risk of severe complications from the flu. The child who died was previously healthy and had recently returned from traveling overseas.

Because of privacy rules, no other details could be released. They did acknowledge that the two cases were not related.

“These deaths are an unfortunate reminder that the flu is deadly,” said County Health Officer and Director of the Public Health Department Dr. Sara Cody. “The child who died of the flu may have contracted the flu virus during international travel. This underscores the importance for all of us to get vaccinated before we travel, especially for trips outside the U.S.”

During the last flu season (2018-2019), there were 27 cases of severe flu in individuals under the age of 65 reported in Santa Clara County. Of those, eight lead to death.

Nation-wide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 80,000 people of all ages in the United States died of the flu and its complications last season.

“Flu and the flu season are predictably unpredictable,” Cody said. “It’s too early to say what these two reported deaths may indicate about this flu season.”

But Cody urged local residents to quickly get a flu shot.

“Getting vaccinated is still the best protection,” he said. “I get my flu shot to protect myself and others, like my elderly mother. I don’t always enjoy getting my flu shot. Who does? I do it because it could be lifesaving.”

While flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months and older, it is especially important for pregnant women, children younger than five, adults 65 and older, and those with chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, asthma, and diabetes.

Health officials advise individuals to take the following steps to protect themselves and loved ones from flu:

  • Get the flu vaccine every year.
  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your cough and sneezes.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick, and keep your children home when they are sick.
  • Stay home until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours.

Health officials said symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. People at higher risk of severe disease who show flu symptoms should contact their medical provider.

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