First flu death of season for L.A. County is Pomona Valley woman

Pomona Valley woman becomes Los Angeles County's first resident to die from influenza this flu season

Health officials have reported the first death associated with flu in Los Angeles County for the 2014-15 influenza season.

The patient was an elderly woman who lived in the Pomona Valley and suffered from underlying medical conditions, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported Monday morning, noting that flu activity had increased in recent weeks in the county.

According to the most recent county-issued Influenza Watch report, health providers had reported 162 positive flu tests as of Dec. 6. The dominant strain "by far," the county noted, was type A H3N2.  The patient who died was infected with a type B virus.

Last year, the county's first flu-related death, also in a person with underlying medical conditions, was reported in late October. In all, 105 people died from the flu in Los Angeles County during the 2013-14 flu season. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that around 24,000 people die of flu-related causes in the U.S. every year.

Older people and those with chronic illnesses or medical conditions are at higher risk of developing severe complications from the flu, but the county health department urged all residents 6 months of age and older to get a flu vaccination if they hadn't already.

"It's not too late to get your flu vaccination," interim county health officer Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser said in a statement. "While we may not be able to predict the severity of flu this season, there are indications that it may get worse."

This year's flu vaccine is not a perfect match for some of the H3N2 strains in circulation, but earlier this month the county said it still recommended vaccination, which still offers protection against many flu viruses.

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