SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — California health officials say flu activity is now widespread throughout the state, and one new death in people under 65 has been reported, bringing this season’s death toll to five people.

State communicable disease chief Dr. James Watt says flu activity has seen a steep increase in recent weeks, and is expected to peak in February. California has had fairly mild flu seasons over the past two years, and this year’s is expected to be worse.

Watt says deaths have been reported in the Sacramento metro area, the Visalia-Porterville metro area, the Inland Empire and two in greater Los Angeles.

The state’s reporting period covers through January 12, and only includes flu death victims under age 65.

An infectious disease specialist at UC Davis Medical Center says it is not too late to get a vaccination — it will still help protect you.

He also says frequent hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes and disinfecting work surfaces will help stop the spread of germs.

Those precautions are especially important for parents with small children who are too young to be vaccinated.

“For children when they get influenza and they get it really bad, the very young can have severe respiratory complications so they might have pneumonia, maybe even need to be on a ventilator,” Dr. Dean Blumberg said.

Dr. Blumberg says this year’s flu strain, H3N2, is known to cause more hospitalizations and deaths. It is not a new strain, but it has been associated with severe flu seasons in the past.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu remains at epidemic levels nationwide for the second week in a row — 48 states are experiencing widespread flu activity, 29 children have died from the virus and more than 5,000 people have been hospitalized this season.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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