County health officer reports 2 flu-related deaths

Two San Benito County residents die of flu, adding to widespread epidemic throughout California and 45 other states.

The San Benito County Health & Human Service Agency announced Jan. 11 that two county residents have died due to complications associated with the influenza virus. This brings the unofficial total of flu-related deaths to 29 throughout the state.

One of the individuals was an adult under the age of 65 years, and the other was over 65. Both had other medical conditions possibly increasing the risk of severe complications from the flu. The vaccination status for this person is unknown.

“Of the 27 influenza-associated deaths and 85 influenza-associated intensive care unit admissions in persons 65 years of age for whom data were available, approximately 95 percent had at least one underlying medical condition and two thirds were unvaccinated,” stated a health official.

27 deaths in California linked to the flu.

“I emphasize the importance of getting the flu shot,” said Dr. Gail Newel, county health officer. “It is not too late to get vaccinated. We encourage everyone six months of age and older to get vaccinated as soon as possible every flu season. The Public Health Services provides free flu shots.”

Disease surveillance data indicate that influenza activity is increasing in San Benito County and throughout the State. People at highest risk for severe complications from influenza infection include adults 65 years of age and older, children younger than 5 years old, pregnant women, and those with certain medical conditions like asthma, heart disease, and weakened immune systems.

Public health officials also advise everyone to take the following steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu, as well as from other respiratory illnesses:

  • Cover your cough and sneezes with a tissue. 
  • If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 
  • Stay home when you or family members are sick—and stay home until you have been symptom-free for at least 24 hours.  

Health officials have said this flu season is perhaps the worst in a decade. Flu-related deaths in the state are above normal. Because other ailments can be misdiagnosed as the flu, officials recommend anyone with persistent symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible. A 12-year-old girl in Visalia was thought to have the flu. Her parents even took her to the hospital and the doctors said she had the flu, treated and released her. When her condition worsened, her parents took her back to the hospital, but it was already too late. She died of cardiac arrest and septic shock. It was only after she died that doctors realized she had a bacterial infection.

On Jan. 9, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced that flu activity in the state was widespread and encouraged all Californians to get vaccinated.

“With the increase in influenza impacting many communities across the entire state, it is important to get a flu shot now if you have not done so already,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. “Although influenza season usually peaks between December and February, flu activity can occur as late as May, which means it is not too late to get vaccinated.”

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the body to respond fully. Vaccine effectiveness does vary for the different strains and year by year. Data will be available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in February about vaccine effectiveness.

To stop the spread of flu and other respiratory illnesses, you should also:

  • Stay home while sick and limit contact with others
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your sleeve or disposable tissue
  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

CDC estimates that influenza has caused 9 million to 35 million illnesses, 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 56,000 deaths in the United States each year since 2010. In many cases, hospitalizations and deaths do not show up in official reports, for a variety of reasons — including the fact that most people with flu are never tested for it and that states are not required to report adult flu deaths

Flu vaccine is available in many locations, including doctors’ offices, health departments, pharmacies, health centers and travel clinics, as well as at many employers and schools. Use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder at to find the nearest location where you and your family can get vaccinated. 

National Influenza Map

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]