36 Dead From Flu in L.A. County, Where Public Health Officials Urge: Get Vaccinated Now

As flu activity increases in Los Angeles County this week – killing nearly three times as many people as at the same point last year – public health officials have a message: It’s not too late to get vaccinated.

“There’s still time for every person who’s 6 months of age or older … to still receive the flu vaccine,” said county Health Officer Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser at a Wednesday news conference. “But time is short and we hope you get vaccinated soon, if you haven’t.”

Vaccines takes about 10 days to begin working, officials say.

It’s not clear yet how effective this year’s flu vaccine will be, as federal data on that won’t be available till February. Still, experts say getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from the flu.

Related: HealthMap Vaccine Location Finder

Public health officials are also urging those who are sick to stay home, and for employers to allow workers to take days away when they’re ill.

The county Department of Public Health on Wednesday said 36 deaths have been attributed to flu compared to 13 flu deaths at the same time last year. Meanwhile, emergency room visits for flu symptoms are up 130 percent.

Statewide, flu is widespread and at levels nearing peak season, the California Department of Public Health said Tuesday. On a call with reporters, state epidemiologist Dr. Gil Chavez said the season may be on of the worst in a decade.

The state tracks only deaths from flu of patients younger than 65; the total death toll is much higher than figures reported statewide. As of Dec. 30 – the most recent data available – the state reported 27 deaths due to flu.

More information about flu prevention, symptoms and treatment are on the state's website.