The state Department of Public Health says this flu season is shaping up to be especially severe. As of Jan. 11th, the state had confirmed 45 flu-related deaths. State officials say they’re also investigating another 50 deaths that are likely due to the flu, bringing the total close to 100 two or three months before the end of peak flu season.
By this time last year, only five flu-related deaths had been reported, and a total of 106 deaths were recorded during the entire season.
"We have a predominance of what appears to be a much more deadly strain," said state epidemiologist Gil Chavez, referring to H1N1, which was responsible for the 2009 flu pandemic.
The state does not require counties to report flu deaths of patients older than 64. Of those deaths that have been reported, two have been children. Many of the rest had underlying conditions, such as heart or lung disease. Chavez said the great majority of patients who’ve died this season had not been vaccinated against the flu.
"We know that vaccine is still available," Chavez said. "So anybody that wants to get a vaccine should be able to get a vaccine." He suggested that everyone over the age of six months get a flu shot.