Residents in Stanislaus County should not assume the flu season has passed.
In general, the county Health Services Agency has noticed a decrease in flu activity, but another strain of virus is causing outbreaks and it’s more dangerous for young children.
The county’s contagious disease unit is primarily seeing cases of influenza B, Anuj Bhatia, a county health services spokesman, said Tuesday.
A virus in the influenza A group, called H3N2, was responsible for the hospitalizations and deaths in the first part of the 2017-18 season. One of the worst flu seasons in years struck in late fall and has claimed the lives of nine people thus far in Stanislaus County.
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The fatalities tallied by public health agencies do not include those who are 65 and older. State health officials have reported 232 deaths in the current season, more than double the number in the 2016-17 season.
While most people recover from the flu in five to seven days, the contagious disease is more dangerous for the elderly, young children and people with chronic health conditions.
According to the state Department of Public Health, more than 70 percent of recent flu cases in California have been influenza B infections.
Last month, the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency recorded two outbreaks of influenza B and two patients under hospital intensive care who tested positive for that type.
The increased prevalence of influenza B is a concern for parents raising children, said Dr. Dean Blumberg, an infectious disease expert at UC Davis Health in Sacramento.
Studies have shown that children are 20 percent more likely to die from influenza B than from the A strains, he said.
Blumberg said that pediatric patients can have a number of complications with influenza, such as respiratory distress syndrome, which makes if difficult for children to breathe.
In addition, children who are seriously ill may be vulnerable to secondary infections and pneumonia.
Bhatia stressed that the B strains also can create serious problems for adults in the typical risk groups, including pregnant women, people with asthma or heart disease, and residents of nursing homes.
The public is advised to keep taking precautions, such as avoiding contact with people who are sick, covering coughs, hand-washing and disinfecting surfaces at home. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, body aches, congestion and fatigue.
The difficult flu season could extend for several more weeks.
"Typically, the end of the season comes toward the end of March, but we can really never be sure," Bhatia said.
The Sacramento Bee contributed to this report.