Flu Season Hitting California Hard, and the Worst is Still to Come

This Year's Strain Contains H1N1 Virus; Health Experts Urge Everyone to get Vaccine

Jim Murray, KEYT - KCOY - KKFX Reporter, jim.murray@keyt.com
POSTED: 05:22 PM PST Jan 11, 2014    UPDATED: 07:32 PM PST Jan 11, 2014 
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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

Flu season is striking early and fast this year. It's already claimed the lives of 7 people statewide. Locally several people have reportedly been hospitalized with the virus.

It's already been a bad year for influenza activity in California. Experts believe that we are still several weeks away from the peak, and what is more alarming, this year's flu is predominated by the H1N1 virus, also known as the "Swine Flu,"the strain that killed thousands of people worldwide in 2009 and 2010.

Even though this year's vaccine protects against the H1N1 virus, many Central Coast residents are still hesitant to get the shot.

I've never gotten the shot, and a bunch of my friends have and they always end up getting sick after," Santa Barbara resident Brad O'Donnell said.

It can be difficult to gauge just how widespread the flu is, but one local physician made it clear that the odds of getting sick as a result of the vaccine are extremely small.

"We give out 80 million of these vaccines a year, and a lot of people think because they don't feel well a week later it's from the shot. but it's not," Dr. William Meller said.

After learning that this year's flu strain is severely impacting people of all ages, including the most recent death of a 23-year-old Bay Area man with no no apparent underlying health problems, I decided it was time to protect myself.

San Luis Obispo County has reported seven flu-related hospitalizations. The numbers from Santa Barbara County are most likely similar. And with the flu season continuing until April, getting vaccinated is the best way to stay healthy.

"Get the shot. It's the smartest thing to do," Dr. Meller said.