LOS ANGELES (AP/CBSLA.com) — California health officials say flu activity is now widespread throughout the state as the death toll for people under 65 climbs.

One new death in people under 65 has been reported in Northern California, bringing this season’s state death toll to five people.

Deaths have also been reported in the Sacramento area, Visalia-Porterville metro area, the Inland Empire and two in greater Los Angeles.

A 51-year-old Fountain Valley man was the first person in the county to die from the flu last month. A La Habra man in his 50s also died from the virus in late December.

The state’s reporting period covers through January 12, and only includes flu victims under age 65.

San Diego County health officials say six residents have died from the flu there.

State communicable disease chief Dr. James Watt says flu activity has seen a steep increase in recent weeks, and is expected to peak in February. California has had fairly mild flu seasons over the past two years, and this year’s is expected to be worse.

Watts urges Californians to get flu shots, wash their hands, and cover coughs.

Officials say everyone over six months old should be vaccinated, in addition to:

— pregnant women
— children younger than five years old
— adults age 65 or older
— those with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease or diabetes
— people living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities
— those who care for at high-risk, including health care and day care workers.

The flu vaccine takes two weeks to become effective. The flu accounts for more than 23,000 deaths in America each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

For a list of flu vaccine clinics operated by Los Angeles County, click here or call 211.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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