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Flu On The Rise In California With 9 Dead In 2017

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STANISLAUS COUNTY (CBS13) - California is one of 12 states reporting widespread flu activity.

Last week, Stanislaus County saw its first flu death of 2017. And with nine deaths across the state so far, health officials are predicting this year to be one of the worst in 10 years.

"It's quite usual for influenza in Northern California to become prevalent after the Christmas vacation," said Dr. Walker, Public Health Officer for Stanislaus County Health Services Agency. "This year, it went from sporadic to epidemic in a couple of weeks! Just a significant upswing!"

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In fact, he says it's a problem all along the Pacific Coast, from the Mexican border to the Canadian border.

The first flu death in the state happened in Los Angeles County last month. Both Yolo and Stanislaus counties have had their own flu deaths in January.

Last flu season, strain B was going around but not very contagious. In contrast, this year, the dominant strain is AH3N2.

"Actually, it's been around for a while," Walker said. "It's not new. It's not a pandemic strain."

But it is much easier to catch than strain B. In Dr. Walker's opinion, it's hard to say why strain A is so prevalent but he believes it's a vaccination problem.

"My first concern is complacency," he said. "We've let our guard down. We're not doing the things we can do to protect ourselves and to protect others. I think we're dealing with a low vaccination rate."

Things like washing your hands and coughing into your sleeve. The CDC recommends a flu shot for everyone over the age of 6 months. And Walker recommends that people over 65 get the pneumonia vaccine as well.

"It's not too late to vaccinate," he said.

After a study by the FDA, the CDC is now recommending the flu shot over the nasal spray because the results found it to be more effective.

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