SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - This week county health officials announced the season's first flu-related death, highlighting the importance of getting your flu shot.
Experts say this year's flu season has started out typically slow but will ramp up in the weeks to come.
Anyone who’s had the flu will tell you it’s more than just a cold.
“Last time I had it I was so sick, I thought that was it and I swore to myself that ever since then I would get a flu shot every year,” said Michael Irwin of Santa Barbara. Irwin and his wife have been getting the influenza vaccine for 17 years.
Laura Arrol gets a flu vaccine every year too. “At this point in my life, it makes a difference for me as far as my health,” the Santa Barbara resident adds.
For those who have been putting it off, health officials say it’s not too late.
“If somebody were to get their shot today, they can expect to be protected two weeks from now,” said Dr. Henning Ansorg, Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer.
This means you’d be protected before peak flu season begins, which Dr. Henning Ansorg says usually kicks up in late December.
“Over the last week they ran like 133 tests for suspected influenza and they only confirmed five cases of influenza,” said Dr. Ansorg.
While the County Health Officer confirms the first flu-related death of the season, Dr. Ansorg says it's unclear if the person over the age of 65 was vaccinated.
“We always stress that especially elderly folks, please get vaccinated. Little children starting at age six months should get the flu shot and pregnant women for sure,” said Ansorg.
Officials say the shortage of that high-dose vaccine for seniors we first reported in October has balanced out.
While it’s too early to tell how flu season will play out, Ansorg says things seem on par with last year.
“We take clues from Australia and those clues are not favorable, lets put it that way, but how it actually is going to pan out here is so far uncertain,” said Ansorg.
There’s a reason we’re comparing flu seasons here. 2017 was a particularly deadly year, killing 14 people in Santa Barbara county and 80,000 nationwide.