First flu-related death of season reported in Santa Clara County

- Santa Clara County officials say they've recorded the first death due to this winter's flu strain. Experts say between five and 20-percent of U.S. residents will become infected with the flu this winter. As always, they stress getting a flu shot to prevent the sickness and the spread of the bug. But weeks into flu season and only a handful of people have taken that biggest proactive step of getting a shot.

"I think it's a important thing to do. it's a scientific advancement that flu shots help," said Adrien LeBaivant in Downtown San Jose. He received a flu shot, but still needs to get his young daughter inoculated.

Thursday, Santa Clara County health department officials announced the first death due to the flu. The victim was a woman under the age of 65.

"The individual that died did have other medical conditions that put them at greater risk for severe flu," said Dr. Sara Cody, the county's public health director.

She says flu season started last month and continues until possibly May. Each winter, the bug makes its way into the air, eventually putting the masses at risk of infection.

"And it went through my head when I was on the plane coming back from Hawaii too, yeah," said Modesto resident Denis McGue, who recently returned from a trip to Hawaii. 

Generally, more people spend time inside during the winter, and the closer quarters allow the virus to spread -- from places commonly touched, or where people congregate..

"The symptoms can be very aggressive for two to three days but they can last anywhere from two to three weeks," said internal medicine specialist Dr. Runjhun Misra.

She says sneezing, sore throat and fatigue are common symptoms.   In addition to getting a flu shot, she advises everyone wash their hands regularly, or use sanitizer.. And if sick, keep away from others to lessen the spread during a time of year when people are in doors or traveling. 

"Even if you get the vaccine, you're not 100 percent protected from getting the flu.. and even if you do get the vaccine, you may get a different strand later on. it's unfortunate but at least you'll be protected from the major stains," Dr. Misra said.

You can get flu shots at county health offices or pharmacies and urgent care centers. And some employers will get the shots for their workers for free.

It's recommended for anyone over six months of age and for pregnant women, where it can protect both mother and child.

More information can be found online at www.sccphd.org/flu.

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