The first San Mateo County flu-related death of the season was reported Thursday, according to health officials.
A woman in her 40s died after contracting the flu and there have been six other flu-related intensive care hospitalizations in the county, San Mateo County health officials said.
“While the deceased did have some underlying medical conditions, it’s important to understand that people without underlying medical problems can still have a severe case of influenza that can lead to hospitalization and possibly death,” said Robyn Thaw, spokeswoman for the San Mateo County Health System.
Health officials urge the public that it’s not too late to get vaccinated in defense of this year’s flu season.
The H1N1 influenza strain, known as “swine flu” when it first emerged in 2009, appears to be the main strain afflicting people this flu season, according to San Mateo County health officials.
There have been nine confirmed flu-related deaths throughout the Bay Area in recent weeks.
On Thursday, Santa Clara County health officials announced a second flu-related death and San Francisco health officials announced a man died at the end of December. Two recent deaths in Marin County have been linked to the flu and another two in Santa Cruz County are suspected of being flu-related, public health officials said Wednesday.
A 63-year-old man with significant chronic medical conditions died on Dec. 27, and a previously healthy 48-year-old woman died of an influenza-related complication on Jan. 6, Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis said.
Both were hospitalized in intensive care, and neither had received a flu vaccine, Willis said.
“We are still several weeks away from the peak of flu season,” Dr. Scott Morrow, health officer for San Mateo County, said in a press release. “The fact that we are seeing an increase in flu activity, flu-related hospitalizations and deaths should motivate us to take action now and get a flu shot to prevent the most serious effects of the flu.”
San Mateo County has seen a rise in flu activity this year as compared to the same time last year, Thaw said. There has also been an increase in otherwise healthy people contracting and dying due to the H1N1 virus, according to public health officials.
Flu season is typically occurs late January through March and we are still two weeks away from hitting the peak, Thaw said. The vaccine takes about two weeks before a person is fully protected so it’s important to get vaccinated as soon as possible, Thaw said.
“We can’t stress enough about the importance that the flu is a preventable disease and the best defense against the flu is to get vaccinated,” Thaw said. “And especially this year with the H1N1 being the strain which does affect healthy people and young people.”
For more information about the flu visit www.smchealth.org/flu.
Bay City News Service contributed to this report