The first two flu-related deaths this season of Fresno County residents under the age of 65 were reported Friday.
The Fresno County Department of Public Health confirmed that one man, 62, and one woman, 59, were the two dead from the flu, though it remained unclear to health department officials when they died. The health department did not get reports on whether the man and woman were vaccinated.
Officials at the health department said the recent deaths bring the number of flue deaths in Fresno County to six since October 2018. Four were over the age of 65. Flu deaths of those under 65 are worrisome to health officials.
“When we see deaths that are less than 65 years old, it shows us that the virus is getting stronger,” said Sara Goldgraben, public health officer. She said those with asthma, diabetes or other underlying conditions are at higher risk when they get the flu.
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The department is asking the public to help prevent the flu from spreading further in the county. Health Educator Leticia Berber said the flu vaccine may be the strongest shield, especially among those who don’t already have the flu. She also suggested people wash their hands regularly, avoid sharing water bottles, eat healthy and maintain good exercise.
“You’re getting the flu vaccine not only to protect yourself, but to protect those vulnerable ones,” Berber said. Anyone older than six months can begin getting the flu vaccine.
Since October 2018, 42 people in California have died from the flu, according to the Los Angeles Times. Half of the statewide deaths this flu season, which begins in October and typically goes until May, have been of people younger than 65 years of age.
This year’s flu has shown to be weaker than last year’s, which claimed the lives of an estimated 80,000 Americans, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Berber said last year’s high death rate could be attributed to the flu season starting earlier and ending later.