Santa Clara County reports its first person to die of the flu this year

Santa Clara County reports its first death from the flu this year. Health officials say they expect a rise in flu cases this fall and winter after two years of decline during the pandemic.

KTVU spoke to local doctors who say we’ve all been focused on COVID-19 for the past two years, but they explain why the flu is coming back and what we need to do to prepare for it.

Just a week after the Santa Clara County Public Health Department sounded the alarm about rising flu cases, county health officials report the first person to die from the flu virus. Health officials say the person who died was an adult under age 65, had underlying conditions and had not been vaccinated against the flu.

“If one virus is predominant, it kind of prevents other viruses from taking up residence. So we’ve had COVID for the last 2 ½ years, and now we have such a high level of immunity to COVID that COVID is more in the background and flu may come,” says Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at UC San Francisco.

Emergency departments across Santa Clara County are reporting about three times as many flu cases as in the 2019-2020 season. Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist, says people should take extra care when collecting this holiday season.

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“If you have to cough or sneeze, remember to do it in your elbow. Wash your hands after you cough or sneeze. Here in California we can have more ventilation because it’s not that cold. Keep those windows open a little bit ,” Dr. said Gandhi.

Flu symptoms are similar to those of the common cold and other respiratory viruses such as COVID and RSV, but also include fatigue, fever, and body aches.

“Everybody feels crappy when they get the flu. We haven’t had this much flu in about 10 years, so it’s really coming back to a really high level right now. And this is just the beginning,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a UCSF infectious disease specialist.

He said flu cases are likely to remain at high levels until about March next year.

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“You have all these holidays and gatherings that follow one after the other, and that doesn’t give the community much time to recover, so the curves of the disease just pile up,” said Dr. Chin-Hong.

Both doctors strongly recommend getting vaccinated against flu and COVID-19. Dr. Chin-Hong also says putting on a mask this flu season can add an extra layer of protection.

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