A young Santa Barbara County woman has died due to complications related to influenza, making her the first local fatality of this year’s flu season, according to the County Public Health Department.
The female resident in her 20s died last week, health department officials announced Tuesday.
The victim had not received a flu vaccine this season, according to Susan Klein-Rothschild, a health department spokeswoman.
Details about the victim and health complications were not released to protect her confidentiality and to respect family, Rothschild said.
While the elderly and young children are oftentimes more susceptible to complications, Rothschild said, the recent fatality serves as a reminder that everyone should be vigilant during the flu season, which typically lasts from October through April or May.
She said H1N1 was the most predominant strain of flu this season nationwide and locally, where health officials haven’t seen the strain since 2009. That year, seven county residents died and another 57 were hospitalized with the strain.
“In reality, the flu does affect people of many ages,” Rothschild said. “This particular strain seems to impact people who are not at extremes in the age range.”
Rothschild said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age 6 months or older be immunized.
Influenza viruses are spread when a person who has the flu coughs, sneezes or touches a surface handled by others, she said. Unlike other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, she said the flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications in many patients.
The health department reports that more than 200,000 people are hospitalized with such complications each year, including 20,000 children younger than age 5.
Santa Barbara County typically logs the highest number of flu reports this month and in February, so it’s not too late to be immunized, Rothschild said.
“It’s just a reminder that many people get the flu, and it’s not a serious illness, and it goes away quickly,” she said. “But it can be.”
Many area health clinics and pharmacies are still administering flu shots.
Click here for a list of local healthcare providers and pharmacists administering the vaccine.