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Flu-Related Hospitalizations At 10-Year High In California

Photo credit: Lawrence Sinclair / Flickr

Hospital personnel discuss a patient's care at his bedside, May 20, 2008.

It's looking like this year's flu season could be much more severe than last year's, according to state health officials.

Flu activity typically picks up in January and early February in California.

Dr. James Watt, chief of the division of communicable disease control for the California Department of Public Health, said the number of people who are seeing their doctor because of a cough and fever is about normal for this time of year.

"But the number of people who are going to the hospital due to pneumonia and influenza, that’s much higher than we’ve seen in recent years," Watt explained. "In fact, the level we’re seeing now is higher than we’ve seen in about 10 years.”

More than 10 percent of the hospitalizations in Northern California Kaiser hospitals during the first week of January were for flu-related illnesses.

That, Watt said, suggests that the flu virus itself is more severe this year than in recent flu seasons.

Statewide so far this season, 14 people under the age of 65 have died of the flu.

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