Central Coast

Dear Jon: Update 3.17.14 Flu deaths reach new high

Doctors suggest to get the vaccination; even though it's not perfect it does help the majority

Yes, flu deaths are increasing and as of Friday, the latest number sits at 332 statewide with seven of those cases in children. All are under the age of 65. The numbers remain the same for the Central Coast counties. State health managers continue to investigate 19 more deaths to see if they're flu related. At this time last year, Dr. Chapman with the Public Health Department says only 47 flu related deaths had been reported.

Darrell asked, "Dear Jon, of all the flu deaths this year, how many actually had the flu shot?"

We're getting weekly reports on this year's flu season from the state Department of Public Health. I've learned the reason why we don't typically hear about how many of the deaths actually had the flu shot, is because that data is harder to track. State health managers say one can get the flu shot in a lot of different locations such as your local pharmacy and not just at a doctor's office.

Update 2.19.14: I received this updated paragraph from the California Department of Public Health: "Of the influenza-related deaths reported to the California Department of Public Health to date, vaccination information is available on only 38 percent of cases. Of these, 16 percent were vaccinated with the 2013-2014 influenza vaccine and 84 percent were not vaccinated with the 2013-2014 influenza vaccine. The vaccination status of reported fatalities is under review on a regular basis as cases get reported to CDPH and our staff follows up with local health departments. The resulting percentages are subject to change."

So what can we take away from that?

Public Health doctors acknowledged that flu vaccine is not perfect. But the data they have confirms that getting the flu shot is better than if you don't get it.

We also know that 90 percent of those who have died were unhealthy to begin with. Just 10 percent were considered healthy people before they got the flu.

With this year's flu being widespread, health managers are encouraging everyone over the age of 6 months to get a flu shot. What they're finding is that those being vaccinated are more often children than adults. So they're encouraging adults to not wait to get a flu shot. There's still time, and the vaccine is available at your county health department.

There's been reports of a shortage of flu vaccine, and what we've found is that many doctor's offices had ordered vaccine for a normal flu season. And when the pandemic hit, their available vaccine was used up. But you can get a flu shot at your county Health Department; the state says there is plenty to go around.

The latest data from the state is that, of those dying from the flu, 66 percent are between the ages of 40 and 64. With that being the case it's no surprise the Health Department is encouraging adults to get the, flu shot.

As to where we are in the flu season, at this time health managers believe the worst could be over, but flu is unpredictable, so they're watching it closely.

Officially there have been 3 deaths reported in Santa Cruz county, 5 in Monterey county, 3 in Santa Barbara county and one in San Luis Obispo county.

If you have a question for me, click the link above or give me a call in the newsroom. You can message me on Facebook "JonKBrent KIONKCOY" and Twitter "DearJonKBrent."

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