Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and state health officer, announced today the number of confirmed influenza related deaths in the state has increased to 45 for the season so far, including two pediatric deaths. This is an increase of 38 deaths from last week’s announcement.
“Flu activity continues to increase statewide, including reports of hospitalizations, severe disease and the number of deaths,” said Dr. Chapman. “We are clearly in the midst of what appears to be an earlier peaking, severe flu season, and I encourage everyone who has not yet gotten a flu vaccination to do so. The influenza vaccine remains the most effective way to protect yourself from the flu.”
For the most recent reporting period, ending January 11, 2014, there were an additional 38 confirmed deaths in 20 counties throughout California. That brings the total of influenza related deaths for the season to 45. An additional 50 deaths are under investigation by CDPH.
The 45 influenza-associated deaths this season have been reported by the following counties: Alameda (3), Contra Costa (2), Kern (1), Kings (2), Lassen (1), Los Angeles (4), Marin (2), Mendocino (1), Merced (2), Orange (3), Riverside (1), Sacramento (5), San Bernardino (4), San Diego (3), San Francisco (1), San Mateo (2), Santa Barbara (1), Santa Clara (3), Sonoma (1), and Stanislaus (3). The pediatric deaths occured in Los Angeles and San Mateo counties.
There is no shortage of influenza vaccine. At the state level, CDPH still has about 50,000 state-purchased doses that are available to local health departments. There are also more than 290,000 federally purchased Vaccines for Children (VFC) program doses available to order by local health departments or private providers. Local health departments may still have doses remaining from their previous orders of influenza vaccine. There are many more doses available on the private market for private providers. It is possible that private health care providers in California may temporarily run out of stock from time-to-time, but ample supplies of vaccine are still available for order. There are also no known widespread shortages of anti-viral medication to treat influenza.
CDPH continues to monitor flu activity statewide and the availability of vaccine and anti-virals, as well as hospital capacity.
Dr. Chapman also notes that in addition to getting vaccinated, it's important to practice good hand washing and other good health habits. People who are ill should take actions to stop the spread of germs such as:
While sick, limit contact with others
Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based rub
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
Those at highest risk - the elderly, pregnant women, infants, or those with other health conditions - who show flu symptoms should contact their physician immediately in order to get the most effective treatment. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.
Visit a flu vaccine location near you to get immunized. Some local health departments may also offer free or low-cost immunizations. For more information on influenza and other respiratory disease surveillance reports visit: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/data/statistics/Pages/CISPDataArchive.aspx.