warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Flu Claims 147 Californians So Far

Niki Hashemi |
February 7, 2014 | 2:30 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Stay safe and healthy this flu season (Twitpic)
Stay safe and healthy this flu season (Twitpic)
On Friday, state health officials reported that the flu has claimed 147 deaths this season—with 44 more deaths under investigation as being potentially flu-related.

17 of these deaths occurred in the Los Angeles area. The total number of deaths this season is significantly higher than the 106 deaths in the entirety of last year's flu season. Officials have said that the reason the flu has been so deadly this year is because there are four strains of the virus circulating—one of them being the H1N1 strain (also known as "swine flu").

“This influenza season continues to be a severe one as the increasing number of influenza related deaths indicates," said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health. "I urge all Californians to get vaccinated, because it is the best defense against influenza.”

Neon Tommy spoke with Dr. Lynn Osher from the LA Valley Pediatric Society in Encino, California. Her number one tip for staying healthy this flu season is to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your nose and face.

READ MORE: Obama Skims Through Health Care In Address

Dr. Osher also said that in 2009, when the H1N1 strain broke out for the first time, they had to develop a separate vaccine for the flu. Since then, the H1N1 strain has been included in the vaccines and is included in this year’s vaccine. She also noted that more unvaccinated patients have showed up this year with flu symptoms so she strongly urges everyone to get vaccinated.

Dr. Osher said that the increasing number of deaths this year can be attributed to the fact that more people are being affected, so more people are coming into the doctors office or the hospital with flu symptoms.

Neon Tommy also spoke with Maria Francisco, an immunization nurse at USC's Engemann Health Center, about the recent flu outbreak.

She said that according to the Department of Public Health, from Jan. 19 through Jan. 25, there have been 12 flu related deaths in LA County. Since September 2013, the flu has claimed the lives of 31 adults and 2 children.

She noted that since the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has to create a flu immunization before the annual outbreak in September, the CDC's job involves guesswork about which strains of influenza will be affecting the population.

“Although the flu vaccine may not prevent 100% of the flu cases, the vaccines are usually 70% effective," said Francisco. "It’s better to be safe and get the vaccine.”

Francisco was proud to say that 30 to 40 people come to the USC health center to get the flu shot every day and she hopes that number increases in the coming weeks. She encourages everyone, especially those who are not getting the flu shot this year, to stay away from people who have the flu, to wash their hands as often as possible and to get enough sleep.

Don’t know where to get a flu vaccine? Find the pharmacy nearest you here. For more statistics about the flu, please view the Influenza Watch document from the Department of Public Health.

Reach Staff Reporter Niki Hashemi here or follow her on Twitter.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.