First Child Death From Flu Reported This Season in Riverside County; Officials Urge Influenza Vaccine Due to Sharp Rise in Cases

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Thousands of Californians have been showing up at doctors’ offices and hospitals sick with the flu this month, in what officials say could be a much more severe flu season than the last.

Syringes filled with flu vaccine sit on a table during a drive-thru flu shot clinic at Doctors Medical Center on Nov. 6, 2014 in San Pablo, California. Doctors Medical Center hosted a drive-thru flu shot clinic offering free vaccines for any community member over the age of 18. (Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Syringes filled with flu vaccine sit on a table during a drive-thru flu shot clinic at Doctors Medical Center on Nov. 6, 2014 in San Pablo, California. Doctors Medical Center hosted a drive-thru flu shot clinic offering free vaccines for any community member over the age of 18. (Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“If you compare this time last year we’re seeing twice as many flu cases,” said Dr. Michael Neely, interim chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “If it keeps going up at this rate and stays up then we will see a lot more cases this year.”

State public health officials on Friday morning reported the first death of a child in this year’s flu season. The death was in Riverside County.

“This is a tragic reminder that the flu is a serious illness for people of all ages and kills thousands of Americans each year,” said California Public Health Department head Dr. Karen Smith.

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