SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — The number of flu-related deaths in the Bay Area increased again on Monday, with four more deaths reported, according to health officials.
Two more deaths were reported in Santa Clara County and one each in Sonoma County and Santa Cruz counties, bringing the total to 15 so far this flu season.
In Santa Clara County, there have been four flu deaths this season, including the two reported Monday. Those two victims were 61 and 62 years old.
The two previous victims, who died in December, were a 61-year-old man and a 41-year-old woman, Santa Clara County Public Health Department spokeswoman Amy Cornell said.
Santa Cruz County's first flu death was a male under the age of 50, county health officials said. The deaths of two other males under 50 in the county are suspected of being flu-related but that has yet to be confirmed, according to the county.
Health officials have linked a dozen of the deaths to the H1N1 strain of the virus.
This year's flu shot includes protection against the H1N1 strain, known as the "swine flu." H1N1, which first emerged in humans in 2009, is more dangerous to young and middle-age adults than other flu strains.
Walgreens and CVS pharmacies had reported running out of the vaccine along with Kaiser Permanente having spot shortages last week. Kaiser, however, has been moving vaccine supplies between hospitals to meet demand.
Health experts have said that this year it's critical to get your flu shot.
"I think a lot of people think that flu only affects the elderly and that's simply not true," said Contra Costa County Immunization Coordinator Paul Leung.
He added that in some cases, this year's flu strain has been fatal for younger people who did not have pre-existing health conditions.
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"Flu is unpredictable. The season could peak in a few weeks. In the past it's peaked later, sometimes it's peaked before. We don't want people to try time it. Get vaccinated now," Leung said.
It takes two weeks for protection to kick in, according to Leung and other health officials and you're protected for the rest of the season.
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