More than 300 Californians have died from the flu so far this winter season, 10 times the number of deaths reported at the same time last year, state health officials said Friday.
It's the highest toll since the H1N1 pandemic broke out in 2009.
Officials said the number was a "big deal," but noted that in the last week, the numbers have been thankfully waning.
The tally will soon officially count for the death of a 42-year-old Santa Clara County man, who may have suffered from underlying conditions. His death, reported on Friday, brings the Bay Area's flu-related death toll to 50. Los Angeles County's flu-related death toll is 72 this season.
According to Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, the number of confirmed influenza related deaths in people younger than 65 reported in the state has risen to a total of 302 confirmed deaths for the 2013-2014 season. Six of those deaths were children. There are another 19 deaths under investigation, not yet confirmed.
To compare, the health department tallied 34 influenza fatalities in all of the 2012-2013 season. And in 2012, the number of flu-related deaths totaled 106, one-third of this season's total.
And while the numbers are high this year, the peak was recorded in 2009. That's when 539 flu-related deaths in people younger than 65 statewide were recorded. That's also the same year this particular strain of the flu first surfaced in the United States, prompting the first global pandemic in more than 40 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At that time, there was no vaccine for this strain.
Most of the Californians under 65 who have died from the flu this season had underlying health conditions, according to state health officials.
The state's death toll likely is higher than 302. NBC Bay Area's reporting shows there are 50 people younger than 65 who have died because of the flu this season, while the state's numbers don't yet reflect that.
Bay Area flu deaths:
- Alameda County: 6
- Contra Costa County: 7
- Marin County: 2
- Napa County: 1
- San Francisco County: 3
- San Mateo County: 6
- Santa Clara County: 16
- Solano County: 3
- Sonoma County: 6
NBC Bay Area's Shawn Murphy contributed to this report.