Los Angeles County recorded its first flu-related death in the 2021-22 season, public health officials said on Wednesday.
The middle-aged man had multiple underlying illnesses and had not received the flu shot, according to the LA County Department of Public Health. He has tested negative for COVID-19 several times over the course of his illness.
“Although most people recover from influenza without complications, this death is a reminder that influenza can be a serious illness,” the health department said.
Complications like pneumonia can develop, and the flu can worsen underlying health conditions like heart disease and asthma, public health officials said.
Every year thousands of people are hospitalized or dying from flu-related illnesses across the country, public health officials said.
How intense a given flu season will be can be difficult to predict, public health officials said. There was less circulation of respiratory viruses like the flu in the winter of 2019-20, most likely due to masking, social distancing, and other measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“We are preparing for influenza virus to spread to Los Angeles County this fall and winter,” public health officials said. “The indicators of influenza activity in Los Angeles County are currently low, but have been increasing in the past few weeks.”
Authorities are asking anyone 6 months and older to get the flu vaccine, which is the best protection, public health officials said. Healthy people should continue to receive the vaccine to protect others in their community, especially the elderly, young people, and people with weakened immune systems.
Those at high risk for flu complications are children under the age of 5, adults aged 65 and over, and pregnant women, public health officials said.
“People at higher risk of complications from the flu should see a doctor as soon as they feel sick, whether or not they have been vaccinated,” public health officials said.