SLO County health officials report first flu season death

The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department announced Monday that a 56-year-old woman died of complications related to type B influenza, marking the first death of what is described as an unusually severe flu season.

Health officials are not disclosing the identity of the deceased woman. The 56-year-old had at least one underlying risk factor that predisposed her to severe complications of the flu.

By law, healthcare providers are required to report deaths and hospitalizations associated with the flu when the person who died was under the age of 65. Flu-related deaths of individuals age 65 and older do not need to be reported.

SLO County health officials say the 2017-2018 flu season has brought more flu cases and more severe illnesses than typical years.

“The impact of flu is very serious this year, across the nation and here in SLO County,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, the county’s health officer.

Over the last week, local emergency medical services, including ambulances and emergency rooms, have been stretched to near capacity, the health agency wrote. Health officials urge people who have routine flu cases and are otherwise healthy to rest and recover at home, so emergency services will remain available for those with life-threatening illnesses.

However, health officials instruct people with the flu to seek medical attention immediately if they are experiencing difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain or severe abdominal pain, confusion, sudden dizziness or severe or continuous vomiting.

Health officials recommend that individuals guard against the flu by washing their hands; avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth; avoiding contact with sick people; and by getting the flu shot.