Four flu-related deaths have been reported in Santa Barbara County this season, and there has been an increase in flu activity, according to the Public Health Department.
Every case involved an individual older than age of 60, and three out of four deaths were in people older than age 80, said Susan Klein-Rothschild, a department spokeswoman.
The county also has seen an increase over the previous week in the number of people in hospital emergency departments with influenza-type illness, and local hospital labs have reported testing more patients with rapid tests than the last week, she added.
“We have ongoing surveillance of emergency departments, some labs and some medical providers in the community,” Klein-Rothschild said. “It is not all providers reporting to us.”
The county is in the middle of the peak season for flu, and the Public Health Department encourages everyone to take precautions, including getting vaccinated, practicing good hand hygiene, and covering coughs and sneezes.
San Luis Obispo County has reported three flu-associated deaths within the past few weeks, public health officer Dr. Penny Borenstein said.
She said the flu could have contributed to other medical issues the people had, and the actual causes of death are being reviewed by the county coroner. All three cases — people ages 38 to 90 — had positive test results for the flu.
“The only mandated reporting up to the state is for deaths for individuals younger than 65, so that’s the information we release publicly,” she said. “The numbers of total people testing positive has been up in the last couple of weeks. This is a bit of an earlier peak; it’s usually more into February or early March, so it has been slightly earlier and slightly steeper as to the number of cases.”
Santa Barbara County public health officials say the symptoms for the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.
Young children, elderly people and pregnant women are among the high-risk groups for serious flu-related complications.