A 60-year-old Riverside man died of complications from the flu — the first documented influenza-related death in Riverside County in the current flu season, health officials reported Friday.
“This is a tragic reminder that the flu still kills,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county public health officer. “We continue to recommend community members get their flu shot.”
According to county Department of Public Health Disease Control Specialist Barbara Cole, there were 23 flu-related deaths involving residents 64 years of age or younger during the 2017-18 flu season. She said the most recent victim had received a flu shot and died after being hospitalized. A pre-existing health disorder likely exacerbated his condition, officials said.
During an appearance last month before the Board of Supervisors, Kaiser emphasized the need for inoculations by referencing the 100-year anniversary of the influenza pandemic of 1918, when the so-called “Spanish Flu” rampaged across several continents. Nearly 700,000 people died from flu-related health impacts in the U.S. at the time, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. There were an estimated 500 million infections globally, resulting in about 50 million deaths.
Kaiser acknowledged that last season’s flu vaccines proved to be only 40 percent effective against the viral strains that spread throughout the county and state. However, even at the lower level of protection, “you’re still 40 percent less likely to get the flu, and even if you do get it, it’s usually less severe,” he said.
The flu is a respiratory illness marked by fever, coughing, sore throat, fatigue, head and body aches. Vomiting and diarrhea are also known to occur.
According to Cole, frequent hand-washing and “social distancing” — avoiding someone exhibiting symptoms — are the best ways to avoid contracting the flu, which is passed through droplets from a sick person’s cough or sneeze. People fighting infections should minimize contact with others until their symptoms abate, she said.
Flu shots are available at the Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley, at any of the county’s 10 health clinics, as well as most pharmacies and doctors’ offices.
Flu season generally spans early fall to early spring.