13 dead due to H1N1 flu strain in the Central Valley

California health officials say the flu season appears to be peaking early and is more severe than in years past.
January 17, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
California health officials say the flu season appears to be peaking early and is more severe than in years past. Friday morning Fresno County officials announced a sixth person has died from flu-related complications, bringing the total number of flu related deaths to 13 in the Central Valley.

Officials say the man was in his 40's and had underlying health conditions like many of the others and are now urging everyone to get vaccinated.

Rebecca Perez and her family are taking extra precautions to protect themselves against the flu after her sister was diagnosed with the H1N1 strain of the flu virus and is now recovering at home.

"My doctor told me I'm highly at risk so it's very important for to me to protect myself and my child," Perez said.

Perez is at risk because she is expecting a baby. State health officials say this year H1N1 is causing more severe cases in otherwise healthy young adults and middle-aged people. Especially those who are pregnant obese or have medical conditions such as lung disease, heart disease and immune-suppressing illnesses like HIV and cancer.

"Currently 20 cases have been reported to the dept. of public health in Fresno County. These are severe illness related to flu, which means they were admitted to intensive care units, and now we're on six deaths reported to us," David Luchini with the Fresno County department of public health said.

To help fight the flu in the Valley the Fresno County Department of Public Health is extending the hours of its vaccination clinic at the Fulton Mall to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.

"We're trying to get better opportunities for parents if they have kids in school. It's been tough for them to get to our clinic at 4 o'clock," Luchini said.

In Tulare County the sheriff's department announced it will temporarily suspend visitation to all jails to minimize exposure of the flu to the inmate population, their families, staff and volunteers. Measures people like Jessica Perez believe are important in stopping the spread of the flu.

"It's kind of scary. We're a little nervous hearing about all the people that have gotten H1N1 and just the flu in general so it's a little bit scary this year," Perez said.

Last year state health officials say 106 people died from the flu in California. If the 50 deaths currently under investigation are the result of influenza that would bring this year's number to 95 and the season is not even over.


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