SAN RAFAEL (CBS SF) — Marin County public health officials reported the first two flu-related deaths this flu season in a news release on Tuesday.

The death of one person hospitalized in the last week of November was reported Tuesday as well as an additional death in the first week of December.

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“This is an important reminder to get vaccinated if you haven’t yet,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Public Health Officer. “Flu can be a very serious, especially for our older residents, and the vaccine is our best defense.”

Health officials say the flue season hit early this year and influenza rates have “increased significantly” across the country. At least 24 people have died, including three children, officials said.

Willis warned that the holidays can add more risk for flu infection due to travel and increased social gatherings with the opportunities to spread illness.

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Flu-like symptoms include fever lasting three to four days, severe muscle or body aches, chills, severe chest discomfort and cough, headaches and fatigue, health officials said.

“Beyond the flu vaccine, handwashing and staying away from school and work when ill are effective ways to help stop the spread of both colds and the flu,” said Dr. Lisa Santora, Deputy Public Health Officer. “The same principles they use in a hospital you can use at home by keeping the sick person away from others and disinfecting surface areas of shared household use such as kitchens, bathrooms, and doorknobs.”

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The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommends that all patients with suspected or confirmed influenza who are hospitalized, severely ill, or, at higher risk for complications should treated with flu antiviral medication.