This year, the flu has hit California with an exceptionally high number of cases, perhaps enough to convince many to rush to get their flu shot. At least 147 young and middle-aged California people have died after being infected with the H1N1 strain — 10 times more than last year, according to public health officials.
People who contract H1N1 are being sent to the hospital at rates that are 50 percent higher than normal, Lyn Finelli, head of the influenza surveillance and outbreak response team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said. “That’s way above the norm for flu,” Finelli said, according to Reuters. “It tells us we’re still in the middle of flu season, and in the Northeast and California it’s going up, up, up.”
The H1N1 strain has spread nationwide, and is most likely to affect people between the ages of 25 and 64. Many older people may already be immune to it due to a past outbreak that occurred decades ago. The H1N1 flu strain is also referred to as the swine flu. “This influenza season continues to be a severe one as the increasing number of influenza-related deaths indicates,” Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement. Some 52 people died just last week in California, which includes a child as well. Meanwhile, though 147 flu-related deaths have been confirmed, there are still some 44 suspected flu deaths that are being investigated, Dr. James Watt, chief of California’s Division of Communicable Disease Control, said.
Recently, the death of a 47-year-old national sales account manager at News10 in Sacramento left many people in shock, and she was a healthy and relatively young working professional. “She was a picture of health. And unfortunately, she did not have her flu shot,” Nancy Pinnella’s brother, John, told News10. Within two weeks, Pinnella was in the intensive care unit and died from complications. Her friend and colleague, Shari Reisman, said she was “angry” that Pinnella had refused to get a flu shot. “We actually did talk about the flu shot and I wanted her to get a flu shot, because I think everybody should get a flu shot,” Reisman said.
It’s still not clear whether other states are experiencing similar flu outbreaks. States are not required to report flu deaths to the CDC, and each state collects data differently. Many flu-related deaths in other states may have gone under the radar. What the CDC has gathered, however, is that there are far more young people being affected by the flu this year in comparison to last year. The numbers of people under the age of 65 who are infected has risen significantly — as of last week, 76 percent of hospitalized flu patients were under 65, compared to 50 percent last year.