A difficult flu season that shows signs of slowing down has claimed the lives of four middle-aged adults in Stanislaus County.
The county Health Services department said four individuals in their 50s and early 60s succumbed to severe complications as the seasonal flu swept the county in December and this month.
The county death toll does not include the elderly. Public health agencies in the state are only required to track flu-related deaths among children and adults younger than 65.
The most recent fatalities in Stanislaus County included a man and woman in their 50s and a man in his early 60s. In December, the Health Services Agency reported that a woman in her 60s was the first flu-related death of the 2017-18 season.
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The county Health Services Agency confirmed four deaths in the entire flu season a year ago. The seasonal flu normally sickens people from December to March or April, and the outbreaks often peak in February.
Health officials have said the current flu season began early and may have peaked early, creating a surge of illness and hospitalizations around the holidays. The pressure on local hospitals seemed to easing up late this week.
“We are seeing some signs that indicate the season might have peaked, but we are just not sure yet,” said Anuj Bhatia, a county health services spokesman.
Medical facilities across the state have been overwhelmed by patients with symptoms including fever, body aches, chills and congestion. The illness may become life-threatening when patients suffer severe complications such as pneumonia and kidney failure.
The California Department of Public Health said 15 flu-related deaths among people under 65 years old were reported to the state the first week in January. That pushed the statewide death toll in that age group to 42.
Patients with nasty flu symptoms continued to fill hospital beds across California. In early January, almost 15 percent of patients in Kaiser Permanente hospitals were sick with influenza or pneumonia, an increase from 10.5 percent the last week in December.
But there are signs the rampant flu activity nationwide is leveling off.
An update Friday from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed patient traffic for flu was no longer skyrocketing the way it was in December.
Not as many hospitals in California were using tents outside their emergency departments to handle the overflow of patients.
“It looks like it’s starting to level out,” said the CDC’s Lynnette Brammer, who oversees flu tracking.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321, @KenCarlson16