The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Wednesday that it received its first report of a flu-associated death in the 2021-2022 influenza season.
The death was in a middle-aged resident with multiple underlying medical conditions, health officials said in a news release. The man had not received a flu vaccine this season.
The individual, who has not been identified, tested negative for coronavirus multiple times over the course of his illness, according to the department.
“Although most people recover from influenza without complications, this death is a reminder that influenza can be a serious illness,” the public health department said.
The flu can aggravate underlying health conditions, such as heart disease and asthma, and pneumonia is the most common complication of the illness.
Annually, thousands of people across the U.S. are hospitalized or die from influenza-associated illness.
Last winter, circulation of influenza and other respiratory viruses was likely suppressed by measures implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19, according to the health department.
“Although influenza seasons are difficult to predict even in normal years, we are preparing for influenza viruses to spread in Los Angeles County this fall and winter,” the news release states.
Indicators of influenza activity in the county are currently low but have been rising in recent weeks, officials said.
While the flu vaccine can vary in effectiveness from year to year, it still provides the best protection against influenza and its complications, according to health officials.
“With flu activity low but rising in Los Angeles County, now is an excellent time to get vaccinated,” the department said, adding that they and the Centers for Disease Control and PREvention recommend flu vaccination for everyone old than 6 months, including children and pregnant women.
“Healthy people who feel they don’t need to be vaccinated should still get the vaccine to protect others in their community, especially the elderly, the young and those with weakened immune systems,” the department said. “Influenza vaccination is also a great way to help protect our hospital capacity in the event of a winter COVID-19 surge.”
The flu vaccine can be administered at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC.
Groups of people that are at high risk for flu complications include children younger than 5 years, adults 65 years and older, and pregnant women. Medical conditions such as asthma, chronic lung or heart disease, diabetes and being overweight (having a body-mass index >40) can also increase risk for flu complications.
Influenza symptoms are similar to COVID symptoms, and high risk people who test negative for coronavirus should get an influenza test, officials advised.
People at higher risk for complications from the flu should seek medical care as soon as they begin to feel ill, whether or not they have been vaccinated.