SAN BERNARDINO ( — State health officials said Friday that there has been an accelerated increase in flu activity this season, including seven confirmed deaths and 28 more under investigation.

“California is seeing an accelerated increase in flu activity over the past few weeks,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California’s Department of Public Health. While the increase in flu activity was not unexpected, there are more hospitalizations at this point than expected, officials said.

The state is reporting a total of seven confirmed influenza deaths in people under 65. Officials say 28 more deaths are under investigation. Influenza deaths in people 65 and older are not reportable in California. (The majority of people who will die from he flu are usually older than 65 or people with compromised immune systems.)

San Bernardino County confirmed two people have died of the flu, bringing Southern California’s flu-related deaths to four this year. A 28-year-old San Juan Capistrano woman was the first reported flu death on Jan. 2, according to Orange County health officials, and Riverside County public health officials Thursday reported the death of a 30-year-old Coachella Valley man.

The H1N1 strain appears to be the predominant strain this flu season and one treatable by the current flu vaccine, officials said.

California’s flu season typically increases in late December or early January and often peaks in February or March, officials said.

“Our flu season may not peak for several more weeks, so I encourage everyone to get vaccinated to protect not only themselves, but those with whom they come into contact,” Chapman said.

Vaccination is recommended for everyone over 6 months old and is particularly important for people 50 years or older, those who live in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, anyone with a chronic medical condition, pregnant women and home caregivers and health care workers.

Friday evening, KCAL9’s Melanie Woodrow spoke to a doctor who warned people not to take the flu lightly, especially because it can be deadly.

“Certainly otherwise healthy people can die,” said Dr. George Fallieras.

Dr. Fallieras said everyone should get vaccinated, even healthy people 20-30 years old. It’s not too late.

“There is a chance you could die from the flu,” he said, “typically around 40,000 people die from the flu each year.”


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