Free flu shots will be available at the Castaic Library on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. – days after a middle-aged Antelope Valley man became California’s first flu-related death under the age of 65 during the 2016-17 influenza season.
“As this unfortunate case illustrates, the flu can be deadly and causes thousands of fatalities each year in the United States,” Dr. Karen Smith, director and state public health officer of California’s Department of Public Health, said Thursday in announcing the death.
“Fortunately, people can get vaccinated to help keep them from getting sick and spreading the flu to others.”
Typically, the flu season peaks between December and February, Smith reported.
While Smith did not identify the flu fatality beyond saying it was a Los Angeles County resident, Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, interim director of the county health department’s acute communicable disease control program, told The Signal that it was of a middle-aged man from the Antelope Valley.
Area residents can show up at the Castaic Library, located at 27971 Sloan Canyon Road, for the free preventive shot, in a program run by the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
The health department has partnered with the county library system to provide free flu vaccines to people with no health insurance, or whose health-care provided does not offer such vaccines.
Health experts recommend flu shots for everyone six months of age and older, including healthy adults and pregnant women. The health department said it is particularly important for pregnant women and people 50 and older to get the vaccine.
“We know there are several influenza strains that have been identified this year – but what is more important is that all those strains are good matches for what’s in the vaccine, so the vaccine will be protective,’’ Schwartz said.
Schwartz also said that, while last year a nasal-spray vaccine was used, that was found not to be as effective as an injection – and he recommended that people not use the nasal-spray method this year.
And it’s important, he stressed, to get the shot early.
“The vaccination generally takes a couple of weeks before it becomes effective,” he said. “So we do recommend that people get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
For those who cannot make Saturday’s free clinic at the Castaic Library, the county health department offers other opportunities for free or low-cost flu shots. The times and locations of those clinics are available by calling the L.A. County Information Line at 211, or on the web here.
The county health department added this important warning: If you have a severe egg allergy or are sick the day of the clinic, check with your doctor before getting vaccinated.
According to Dr. Smith, the state health department has received 11 confirmed influenza-associated cases that required intensive-care treatment, and five influenza outbreaks in the state this year.
Each year, the state report said, flu causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands or sometimes tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S.
“As family and friends gather during the holidays, now is an important time to get protection against the flu. It’s not too late to get vaccinated,’’ the state health department cautioned.
More info is also available at the state health department’s flu page.