Fresno County health officials reported three flu-related deaths Tuesday, raising the total number of people who have died of influenza in Fresno County to 21.
So far this flu season, 33 have died in the central San Joaquin Valley. Kings and Merced counties have had four deaths each, and Madera and Tulare counties have had two each.
Four people remain ill with influenza in Fresno County hospital intensive-care units, said Joe Prado, manager of community health at the Fresno County Department of Public Health.
The message, Prado said: "We're still seeing these severe cases and we're seeing our number of deaths increasing."
The reported deaths are for people younger than 65. California requires hospitals to report only deaths of adults younger than 65 and children.
Fresno County's deaths have been people whose ages range from 20s to 60s. The three latest victims were all in their 50s. Two -- a woman and a man -- had no medical problems to increase their risk of complications from influenza, Prado said. In the third death, the man had medical problems, he said.
The three all had H1N1 influenza A, a virulent strain that has been associated with almost all of the deaths in the Valley.
This year's flu vaccine includes protection against H1N1, Prado said.
Vaccination history was not available on the man who had no medical problems. The other man and the woman had not been vaccinated.
Prado said the health department gave 9,391 flu shots in 2013 in contrast with 2012, when it gave 5,671 shots. But the health department has seen a sharp decrease in requests for shots in the past week or two, he said.
Flu season can continue into May, and Prado said: "We still are promoting that there's time to get vaccinated."
Flu shots information
Everyone over the age of 6 months is recommended to get a flu shot.
Vaccination of high-risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness.
People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older.
Vaccination also is important for health-care workers and other people who live with or care for high-risk people to keep from spreading flu to high-risk people.
Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for them should be vaccinated.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine information
Pregnant women should receive a vaccine booster during the third trimester of each pregnancy, even if they received it before.
Infants should be vaccinated as soon as possible. The first dose is recommended at 2 months of age. Young children need five doses of pertussis vaccine by kindergarten (ages 4-6).
California requires seventh-grade students to get a vaccine booster shot.
Adults need vaccine booster shots, especially if they are in contact with infants or are health-care workers or have contact with pregnant women.
Source: California Department of Public Health
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