The influenza virus that has been spreading across the country continues to make its presence felt locally, with Merced County recording two flu-related deaths.
In addition to the two deaths, the Merced County Public Health Department reported one adult patient has been hospitalized in an intensive care unit for the H1N1 flu virus.
Both the fatalities were adults who had underlying health issues, according to the public health department.
Stanislaus County has recorded three flu-related deaths, two of whom lived in the county. The third was from another area, but hospitalized in Stanislaus County.
“These severe flu cases are sad reminders of the potential impact caused by seasonal influenza,” said Kathleen Grassi, director of Merced County’s public health department. “However, it is not too late to get a flu shot since cases of seasonal influenza usually peak in late January into February.”
The California Depart of Public Health reports that the H1N1 strain appears to be the predominant strain circulating in the state and the country. The H1N1 virus, which reached pandemic levels in 2009, tends to cause more illnesses in children and young adults that it does in older individuals, though all age groups are susceptible.
The symptoms of H1N1, also called swine flu, are similar to the symptoms of other influenza viruses and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have also reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with H1N1.
People can still receive the flu vaccine to be protected this year. Typically, the flu season peaks in February and March in Stanislaus County and the flu vaccine only takes two weeks to become fully effective. It is particularly important for pregnant women and other people at higher risk for severe influenza to be vaccinated.
People should check with their primary care provider or local pharmacy for vaccine availability. Vaccinations are also offered at the Stanislaus County Public Health Department for $10 per child (6 months through 18 years) and $25 per adult. Flu vaccines are provided to the public during the hours of 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays at the Public Health building located at 820 Scenic Drive in Modesto. No appointments are necessary.