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Placer County could register its second flu death of season

‘Suspect’ death being investigated as flu runs widespread in the state
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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Placer County health officials are now looking at the possibility of this season’s second death from flu.

A nasty, long-lasting strain of influenza has all of California and much of the United States in its grip this winter.

The California Department of Health had counted flu 74 deaths by mid-month, with new totals to be released Friday expected to increase that number. At the same time, a year earlier, 14 deaths had been reported. The state tracks flu deaths of people under 65.

In Placer County, one flu death was confirmed in December and a “suspected” recent death was being considered for potential addition to the count on Wednesday.

Placer County Health Official Dr. Robert Oldham said that county residents need to remain vigilant in the face of a widespread flu season.

“Like other counties across the state and nation, flu season hit early and hit hard in Placer this year,” Oldham said. “It continues to be widespread and we encourage community members to take precautions, from hand washing to getting vaccinated.”

Prevention precautions are specially important for people with weaker immune systems, he said.

State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith said that a flu shot is still an option in the battle to stay ahead of the disease. The mid-January state statistics showed 44 outbreaks and hospitalizations for flu above expected levels in all 58 California counties.

“Although influenza season usually peaks between December and February, flu activity can occur as late as May, which means it is not too late to get vaccinated,” Smith said.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the body to respond fully but there are still questions about the effectiveness about the strain of flu causing so many illnesses this year. Data will be available in February from the Centers for Disease Control on how effective the current vaccine is.

No personal identifying information is being released by the county or state on flu-death victims. Oldham said earlier this month that it follows the Health Department practice of not providing any potentially identifying information related to death unless there is a strong public health reason to do so.