California flu season worst one in several years, experts say

CVS Pharmacist Jill Kolin administers a flu shot to KPCC's Morning Edition Anchor Steve Julian.
CVS Pharmacist Jill Kolin administers a flu shot to KPCC's Morning Edition Anchor Steve Julian.
Andrea Wang/KPCC

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If you were felled by the flu this season, you were in good company:  California experienced one of its worst flu seasons in several years, officials say.

The California Department of Public Heath says it received reports of 62 Californians under the age of 65  dying of influenza during this latest flu season, which spanned from Oct. 1 to March 30.  Last year, the state recorded only 20 deaths. 
Experts say the jump is likely due, in part, to increased testing and better reporting among doctors made more vigilant this year by a flurry of media reports that tracked the flu's spread from the east coast to California.  

Still, those in the know say California’s flu season was nothing to sneeze at.
"Every season is different, this season was a particularly bad one compared to immediately prior seasons in the last two years," says Dr. Albert Ray, medical director for regional health at Kaiser Permanente Southern California.
This worse-than-usual year resulted in at least 26 confirmed deaths in all age categories so far in Los Angeles County.  Last year, L.A. County reported 43 deaths, and officials say they expect this year’s final death count to be about the same, once all cases are tallied.  

Orange County, which began counting influenza deaths for the first time last year, reported six deaths among those under the age of 65, compared with one last year, a county spokeswoman says. 
And while the worst is now over, Kaiser Permanente’s Dr. Albert Ray advises those who haven’t yet been vaccinated, to do so now.  Even though the official influenza season is behind us, flu viruses are always lurking about, he says.

"The peak is over and we're on a downhill slide, but you can still get flu," Ray says. 

CDC map of flu-like illnesses in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control map measures "the proportion of outpatient visits to healthcare providers for influenza." Click on the map for more detail.

Centers for Disease Control