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Placer County health officials confirmed today that influenza is believed to be a contributing factor in the death of a Placer County man who died earlier this week.

Placer County health officials did not release the name of the deceased or identifying information, but did indicate that he was under age 65 and suffered from at least one chronic health condition.

Influenza and Pneumonia kill over 50,000 people every year in the United States alone:
U.S. Center for Disease Control

This is the first death related to the flu this season that has been reported to the Placer County Public Health Division. There have been 2 other cases of individuals hospitalized in intensive care units (ICUs) with the flu. Both the flu-related death and the ICU admissions were of individuals under age 65. Influenza-related deaths and ICU admissions in persons 65 years of age and older are not reportable to the local health department in California.

“We are very sorry to report this man’s tragic death. Our hearts go out to his family and loved ones,” said Dr. Robert Oldham, Placer County’s public health officer. “We are seeing a surge in influenza activity, and this unfortunate death is a reminder to all of us that the flu can be deadly and needs to be taken very seriously.”

Oldham states that this flu season is expected to be particularly severe. The most widely circulating strain of the influenza virus this season is the H3N2 strain. This strain is typically associated with higher mortality from the flu. In addition, many of this season’s H3N2 viruses have genetically “drifted” from the H3N2 virus in this season’s flu vaccine. Thus, this year’s vaccine may be less effective than usual at preventing the flu. 

Still it is worth it to get a flu shot. “This year’s flu shot still offers some protection against getting the flu,” Oldham said. “And even if you do get sick, you are probably less likely to have complications from the flu if you are vaccinated.” Flu shots are still readily available at doctor’s offices and pharmacies, and are usually covered by insurance. Oldham reports that thousands of flu shots have also been administered in the community at no charge this flu season. “Our staff and community partners did a great job of getting the vaccine out to underserved groups this year. It was really an outstanding team effort. I expect it may have saved some lives.”

Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone six months of age or older, but is particularly important for those at higher risk of severe influenza, including pregnant women, children under five years of age, the elderly, and persons with certain underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, asthma, and heart disease. Vaccination of pregnant women also helps to protect infants too young to be vaccinated.

In addition to getting a flu shot, the public can limit the spread of the flu and complications by doing the following:

  • 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; and
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Those at highest risk who show flu symptoms should contact their physicians 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.

For more information on the flu, including help in finding a flu vaccine near you, call the Placer County Public Health Division at 530-889-7141.

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