California health officials have announced the first two flu-related deaths in the state for the current flu season.
On Wednesday, a Santa Clara County resident between 18 and 65 years of age who suffered from other health complications became the first adult to die of the flu in California this season.
On Friday, the Department of Public Health reported that a less than a year old baby in Stanislaus County died from the flu.
In response, Dr. Karen Smith, the state public health officer, said in a statement:
As California’s public health officer, I am saddened when the flu turns into loss of life. It doesn’t have to. That’s why I urge you to get your flu shot. By getting vaccinated, you can keep yourself healthy and stop the virus from spreading to others.
Dr. Smith recommends parents vaccinate children as young as 6 months old and advises anyone who is in contact with babies not old enough to be vaccinated to be inoculated themselves.
Reports indicate that this could be a particularly bad flu year. The doctor said that since influenza viruses tend to peak in circulation during the time between December and April, people are urged to get vaccinated before the flu spreads widely.
A recent report noted that 78 people under the age of 65 died during the previous flu season due to influenza-associated illnesses. Deaths are reported to the state only when the person was less than 65 years old. According to the health department, the total number of casualties is likely much higher when taking into consideration people older than 65, because they are especially vulnerable to the flu.
Health officials have been recommending getting vaccinated since October, which is the earliest time the flu season typically begins. Last year, the season peaked in mid-January in California and during late December nationally.