Health officials say a Madera County woman is the first influenza death in the San Joaquin Valley this flu season.
The 61-year-old woman died Sunday. She was not identified by authorities.
The death "most likely" was flu-related, said Van Do-Reynoso, director of the Madera County Public Health Department.
The woman, who had a history of diabetes, was tested for the flu and the results were positive for influenza A, Do-Reynoso said. The health department is waiting for a death certificate for the specific cause of death, she said.
The woman was hospitalized in Madera but was transferred to a Fresno hospital.
Four influenza-related deaths had been recorded in California as of Wednesday, according to the state Department of Public Health, but it was unknown if that number included the Madera death.
The state refused to say which counties had reported deaths, citing privacy issues.
Two deaths have been reported in Sacramento County, according to The Sacramento Bee. A young man and an elderly woman died in late December.
Influenza activity in California has remained spotty, but health officials said reports of flu cases are picking up. The virus is widespread across the country.
Vaccination is the most effective way of preventing the flu, Do-Reynoso said. While sporadic shortages of the vaccine at chain stores and doctors' offices have been reported in the valley, county health departments have vaccine, she said.
Do-Reynoso said a flu shot is "cheap; it's affordable and it's available." Immunity from the vaccine takes about 10 days, and valley health officers recommend getting a flu shot within the next week or so.
Vaccination is recommended for everyone over the age of six months. Certain people are at high risk for flu complications, such as those with diabetes, asthma and people with chronic lung or liver disease.
Tips to avoid getting sick
Wash your hands.
Wash telephones, computer keyboards and other shared instruments.
Use tissue and cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, then wash hands.
Get a flu shot.
When ill, stay home to protect others.
After a fever abates (without fever-lowering medicines), wait 24 hours before returning to work or school.