California reports first flu death of person under 65

California reports season's first influenza death of a person under age 65

The California Department of Public Health on Friday announced the state’s first influenza death of a person under the age of 65 for the 2014-15 flu season.

The department did not immediately release the age or gender of the person but said the deceased was an adult resident of Southern California.

“Flu activity is beginning to increase statewide, including reports of hospitalizations and severe disease,” Ron Chapman, director of the state public health department, said in a statement.

Influenza has already killed 21 children nationwide this flu season and is considered “widespread” in 43 states, according to the California health department.

Influenza is considered “regional” in California, meaning there have been recent laboratory-confirmed cases influenza in at least two but less than half the regions of the state, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Older people, infants, pregnant women and those with chronic illnesses or medical conditions are at higher risk of developing severe complications from the flu, and the state health department has urged residents to get a flu vaccination if they haven’t already.

“We are early on in what could be a severe flu season, and I encourage everyone who has not yet gotten a flu vaccination to do so,” Chapman said.  “The influenza vaccine remains the most effective way to protect yourself from the flu.”

In Los Angeles County, influenza activity increased for the fifth week in a row, according to the county-issued Influenza Watch report issued Friday. There were two adult flu deaths in L.A. County the week ending Jan. 3, and there have been five adult deaths since the beginning of September, according to the report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

“Nationally, the rest of the country appears to be experiencing a more severe impact from flu than what is occurring in California,” the department said in the report. “However, that situation may change as local levels have most likely not peaked yet and because the flu season can extend into the spring.”

In all, there were 105 flu-associated deaths in L.A. County during the 2013-14 flu season, with the 18-to-64 age group accounting for 68% of those, according to the county health department. 

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