Health officials in Kings and Merced counties on Thursday reported two new flu-related deaths.
The deaths raised the total to 36 in the central San Joaquin Valley, including five each in Kings and Merced. Fresno County has had 22 deaths and Madera and Tulare counties have had two deaths each.
Fresno County officials have said this is the worst flu season in the five years since California has required hospitals to report influenza deaths of children and adults younger than age 65.
The latest death in Kings County was a middle-aged woman who had health conditions that increased her risk of complications from the flu, said Sharon Soong, the communicable disease coordinator at the Kings County Department of Public Health.
Of the five deaths in Kings County, none of the patients had gotten flu shots, the health department said.
Merced County's latest flu victim was a man between the ages of 50 and 60. The county did not indicate if he had been vaccinated.
The vaccine offers protection against influenza viruses, including H1N1, an influenza A strain that has been associated with most of the deaths in the Valley. The latest death was influenza A, but health officials said it was not possible to identify if the strain was H1N1 or another influenza A subtype.
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