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Santa Barbara County Reports Its First Flu Related Death

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has its first confirmed flu related death.

Officials say an elderly person over the age of 64 died from influenza in the last two weeks.

The announcement comes just as a nationwide flu epidemic is declared.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Monday that the flu is now widespread in 47 states.

Hospitalization rates are as high as they were two seasons ago during the last major outbreak.

Dr. Takashi Wada is the director of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.

He said the county is seeing a spike in cases also, but the numbers are still lower compared to the nationwide average.

“We are again seeing a surge. We are concerned after all the travels over the holidays. They are getting back to work, back to school, and a lot of times, the spread happens there. We are on the lookout for that,” Wada said.

Wada is urging people to prevent the spread of the flu with hand washing and by staying home if you are ill.

He said patients with the flu should take antiviral medications, if they are prescribed.

Most importantly, Wada is still recommending people get the flu shot, even though the predominant strain of the flu, H3N2, is not a good match to the current vaccine.

“Unfortunately, this strain of influenza mutated after the vaccine had already been produced. The vaccine is only about 33 percent effective this year. Again, it is still better than not getting the vaccine. So we are recommending it for everyone age 6 months or older,” Dr. Wada said.

The national numbers released by the CDC Monday cover the week of Christmas, and experts say they could spike again in the coming weeks.

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