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Orange County confirms its first flu death of 2013-14 season

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Health officials Thursday confirmed Orange County's first reported flu-related death this season.

A 28-year-old San Juan Capistrano woman, who had an underlying medical condition, died last week of H1N1 -- the same strain of the flu that triggered the swine flu pandemic in 2009 -- according to Deanne Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Orange County, which keeps track of influenza deaths only in people younger than 65, has seen a slight increase in severe cases this season, Thompson said.

Last year at this time, the county had recorded three severe cases -- defined as times when people either died or ended up in a hospital’s intensive care unit because of the flu. This year, Thompson said, the county is up to eight severe cases.

Most prevention tips are simple: Wash your hands with warm water and soap, stay home from work when you’re sick, and cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough.

But the biggie, Thompson said, is getting a flu shot.

Unlike most flu strains, which hit the very young and the very old the hardest, H1N1 -- which is covered by the shot -- proves powerful even among young and middle-aged adults, she said.

“That’s why the younger, healthier adults really need to get vaccinated,” she said.

In L.A. County, however, a San Fernando Valley woman died from a different strain of influenza in October. And although Allen Solomon, a spokesman for L.A.’s Department of Public Health, didn’t have any details, he said the county had a second confirmed influenza death in early December.

After the first fatality, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the county's health officer, released a statement urging Angelenos 6 months and older to get a flu shot. 

“The flu can affect each person differently,” he said.

During the 2012-13 flu season, Los Angeles County confirmed 69 deaths from the flu, including seven children. The public health department described it as a "moderately severe" influenza season.

 

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marisa.gerber@latimes.com

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