A 30-year-old Coachella Valley man who died this week has tested positive for influenza, county health officials are reporting.
It is the first influenza-related death of the flu season in Riverside County, officials report.
The man tested positive for the H1N1 strain and died this week after being briefly hospitalized, according to Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer. Officials are investigating whether the patient had other underlying health issues that may had contributed to his death.
Officials have not confirmed whether the patient had received a flu vaccine, which can be effective against the H1N1 strain.
Riverside County has seen some recent increases in instances of influenza-like illness, but the overall flu activity is within the expected levels for this time of year, according to officials. Statewide, flu activity has increased recently.
San Diego County has also saw its first flu-related death in recent days. A 51-year-old man who suffered from an existing medical condition died Jan. 2, San Diego County's Health and Human Services Agency reported.
The unidentified man tested positive for Influenza A, according to the HHSA.
"While influenza deaths are very unfortunate, they are not uncommon," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County's public health officer. "Influenza can be a serious and deadly disease. That is why it is strongly recommended that people get the vaccine."
The agency said 65 people died in San Diego County during last year's flu season.
In San Diego, there has been an exponential increase in the number of flu cases diagnosed, with 361 cases reported last week, according to the HHSA. That is more than the total number of cases -- 357 -- diagnosed since the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1.
The prior week, the number of new cases was 154, which was double that of the week before that, the HHSA reported.
The total of confirmed flu cases in San Diego County now stands at 716, according to the agency.
The predominant virus circulating nationally so far is Pandemic H1N1. In San Diego, about eight out of 10 cases have been determined to be Pandemic H1N1.
The current flu vaccine offers protection against Pandemic H1N1, as well as Influenza A H3N2 and Influenza B strains. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that the vaccines are well-matched for the currently circulating viruses.
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine every year. The vaccine is especially important for people who are at higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu, including people with certain medical conditions, pregnant women, and people 65 years and older.
"The best protection against the flu is to get vaccinated," Wooten said. "It is not too late to be immunized."
People can also avoid the flu by washing hands thoroughly and often; using hand sanitizers; staying away from sick people; refrain from touching the eyes, nose, and mouth; cleaning commonly touched surfaces; and if sick, staying home and avoiding contact with others.
Riverside County's Dr. Kaiser said it's not too late to get vaccinated against influenza.
“Some people wrongly believe that it is too far into the flu season,” Kaiser said. “That is not the case. There is still time and the vaccine is readily available.”