Merced an exception to state flu trend

MERCED — Although the state of California saw record numbers of people hospitalized with H1N1 influenza recently, Merced County is bucking the trend.

Nearly 800 people in California were hospitalized with the flu during Thanksgiving week, the highest weekly total of hospitalizations since flu cases began escalating this fall, state officials said.

But in Merced County, the week with the highest number of hospitalizations continues to be the second week in October.

County spokeswoman Katie Albertson said 41 people were hospitalized that week.

Albertson said 61 people have been hospitalized with H1N1 in Merced County since April, and five people have died from it.

In Stanislaus County, 13 people have died from the flu strain — six since late October, according to county health officials.

Albertson said Merced County now has both nasal vaccines and shots available for county residents, and anyone who wants the vaccine can get it.

"The county has plenty of vaccine available, and so do local health providers," Albertson said.

Stanislaus County still is targeting its doses for those deemed to be at the highest risk: children older than 6 months, pregnant women, young adults and adults with chronic health conditions.

The uptick in numbers of flu patients hospitalized in California indicates H1N1 continues to be widespread in California and remains a significant threat to public health.

Experts have said it's possible there could be a second wave of flu cases in the coming months.

In the week that ended Nov. 28, 794 people in California were hospitalized, according to reports the state received that week.

The figures were higher than the previous week's total of 405, and topped the previous high — 773 — recorded for the week that ended on Halloween.

The figures include people who died from H1N1 but who were not hospitalized at the time.