Jan. 24--California public health officials today said that 95 people statewide have died of the flu, confirming that the H1N1 virus now circulating is genetically no different than viral strain behind the H1N1 2009 worldwide pandemic.
"The virulence of the virus is dictated by the structure of the virus," Dr. Gil Chavez, state epidemiologist said in a press conference. "As far as we know there have been no changes genetically to this virus and the one we had seen during the pandemic. We consider this and the 2009 pandemic virus to be the same strain."
Typically, viral strains mutate from year to year, prompting slight changes in flu vaccines as public health oficials try to stay ahead of the mutations. But The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta had warned clinicians to expect this year's season to mirror the 2009 season with young adults and otherwise healthy middle-aged people hit hard, as well as those with underlying medical conditions.
Today's figures of 95 deaths more than doubled the number of fatalities -- 45 statewide -- released last week. At this time last season, Chavez said, nine people had died of influenza-like symptoms.
Chavez said the state determinined that 80 percent of those who perished did not have a flu vaccine. But 20 percent of the deceased did get immunized with the flu vaccine.
"We know that no vaccine is 100 percent effective, he said. "We are always going to have some people who get vaccinated and do not develop full immunity. Unfortunately we can see from the numbers, some of those may end up dying."
In Sacramento County, 14 people have died of the flu so far, said Olivia Kasirye, the county's public health officer.
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Original headline: H1N1 flu virus behind 2009 pandemic is back: statewide death toll is 95
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