California officials say flu-related deaths up this season

File Art - The U.S. Gov. estimates 80,000 Americans died of the flu and its complications last winter. 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California health officials say flu-related deaths have been higher so far this season than in recent years, raising concerns the illness might prove more severe.

Dr. James Watt, chief of the state's division of communicable disease control, said Tuesday that flu season began earlier than usual and it's too soon to know if it will peak sooner or continue to worsen.

Watt says there have been 27 flu-related deaths among Californians under age 65. He says the state typically sees three or four such deaths by this time in the season.

State health officials urged people to get vaccinated against the flu, noting about 70 percent of those who died in this age group were not vaccinated.