L.A. County reports first flu death of season, renews call for residents to get vaccinated

Pasadena, CA - October 12: Allissa Sanchez, LVN, gives her patient a vaccine during a flu and COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Kaiser Permanente Pasadena on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023, in Pasadena, CA. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
A vaccine is administered during a flu and COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Kaiser Permanente Pasadena on Oct. 12. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County has confirmed its first flu death of the season, and with the bulk of the season still ahead, health officials are reminding residents to get vaccinated.

The person who died was elderly and had multiple underlying health conditions, according to the county Department of Public Health. There was no record of the person being vaccinated for flu this season, officials added.

“Although most people recover from influenza without complications, this death is a reminder that influenza can be a serious illness. … Annually, thousands of people nationwide are hospitalized or die from influenza-associated illness,” health officials said in a statement.

Read more: When is the best time to get a flu shot? And what kind should I get?

Statewide, nine people have died from flu since Oct. 1, according to the latest data from the California Department of Public Health.

Flu season usually runs from October through May and peaks around February, but every season is different. An estimated 670 Californians died from flu during the 2022-23 season, public health figures show.

Federal health officials have long recommended most everyone get an annual flu shot. But that call has taken on increased urgency in recent years, given the additional threat posed by COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

Health officials are preparing for the possibility of a renewed “tripledemic” this winter, with all three viruses circulating widely at the same time. Last year, Southern California was hit hard by an early onslaught of RSV, a historically strong start to the flu season and a COVID-19 spike — straining a healthcare system already stretched thin and sending patients to the emergency room in droves.

“Current indicators of influenza activity in Los Angeles County are in line with past seasons and have been rising in recent weeks,” officials said.

Read more: Bay Area reinstates COVID mask orders in healthcare settings. Will L.A. follow?

As of the week that ended Nov. 4, the most recent period for which data are available, flu activity was still considered low statewide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But flu activity is increasing as the holiday season approaches, and officials largely recommend everyone age 6 months and older, especially older adults and those with weakened immune systems, get vaccinated.

Although some healthy people may be unfazed by flu season, officials say they should still get the shot so they don’t spread the illness to someone who might not recover as quickly.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.