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First Death From Flu in County Confirmed

County health department officials say you should not take the flu lightly.

A 98-year-old woman is said to have become the first flu death in Santa Clara County, Santa Clara County Public Health Department oficials announced Thursday afternoon.

Dr. Sara Cody, a health deputy for the department, said officials had learned about the death through one of two flu death track systems used by local authorities.

The woman was suffering from other medical conditions, Cody said, adding that although the death is notable, there are across the country 35,000 deaths occurring every year as a result of the influenza virus.

Cody said to prevent and reduce the risk of getting the flu, it's recommended everyone get a flu shot, wash hands frequently, stay away from those who are ill and strongly encouraging those who are sick to stay home.

"There's no reason for alarm," Cody said. "The death highlights that we have a flu epidemic every winter ... and every single winter people get very sick, require hospitalization and even die ... It serves as a reminder that influenza is never to be taken lightly and everyone can take steps to prevent it."

Cody explained the flu virus can be lethal in the elderly, particularly in those with chronic medical conditions such as lung and heart conditions, or other chronic illnesses. "They're at greater risk from getting severely ill ... for example, someone who's 98 years old and is frail and gets influenza is at much greater risk to get bacterial pneumonia on top of that and it can be lethal."

In children, different kinds of influenza viruses can affect a large amount of such population, in particular young infants and toddlers. "I haven't necessarily seen that pattern this year ... but it is something we track through pediatric hospitalizations."

Amy Cornell, a spokeswoman for the department, said someone over the age of 65 had died Tuesday.

A press conference on Thursday at the Health Department in San Jose, where Dr. Martin Fenstersheib, the department's health officer, addressed questions from media about the death.

Early this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported influenza activity was continuing to increase in the United States and most of the country was experiencing high levels of influenza-like-illness (ILI).

“Reports of influenza-like-illness (ILI) are nearing what have been peak levels during moderately severe seasons,” according to Dr. Joe Bresee.

The CDC said it was continuing to recommend influenza vaccination and antiviral treatment when appropriate.

“While we can’t say for certain how severe this season will be, we can say that a lot of people are getting sick with influenza and we are getting reports of severe illness and hospitalizations,” Bresee said on Jan. 4.

 

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Vanessa Castañeda January 18, 2013 at 06:14 PM
@Alan, is it really a social responsibility? I feel like I did my time and shouldn't have to get stuck with a needle. (I got sick a few weeks ago, and spent horribly long days in bed.) Surely access to clean food, water, and a stable environment played a part in the 1918 pandemic.
Alan Dale Brown January 18, 2013 at 06:52 PM
Vaccination in general is a social responsibility. Admittedly I haven't gotten vaccinated yet this year - and have been feeling a little guilty about it; I'm going to go out at lunch time. There could be value you in getting the flu vaccine now, as it vaccinates against multiple strains. I'm not sure the strains it contains are deadly to all but the most fragile people - but they can put people "out of business" for a few days. Is the time spent with the tiny needle they use in flu shots less valuable than the sort of experience you just went through? Trying to provide access to clean food and water for everyone is also a social responsibility. Admittedly, I haven't gotten flu shots every year; but it's better if I do, for myself and those around me.
Vanessa Castañeda January 18, 2013 at 07:12 PM
Maybe. Every experience has value. However, as a child I was stuck with a lot of needles during my allergy shot sessions. So maybe I just don't like them anymore. The last time I got a flu vaccine, I got sick anyway. This season was a double whammy for me. My immune system built defenses against both the California and Ohio strains. Plus whatever I was exposed to in the airports between California and Texas. I think I'm good for the rest of the year...unless there's a strain going around Croatia.
Alan Dale Brown January 18, 2013 at 09:08 PM
There. I just got my shot. Insurance paid for it (typical), plus I got a coupon for 20% off. Was painless. Only downside was the pharmacist had very dirty clothes (yuck!) I should get a promise out of you, Vanessa - if you get the flu again this year, you'll post a confession to Patch that you shoulda' gotten your flu shot.
Vanessa Castañeda January 18, 2013 at 10:01 PM
LOL

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