Warning sounds over ‘mild’ flu season­

There have been at least four flu-related deaths in the Bay Area so far, and public health officials warn that while flu-season has been mild so far, it could still become severe.

In prepared statements from public health departments in San Francisco, San Mateo County, Santa Clara County and Alameda County, public health officers are warning that flu activity is increasing.

At least four people have died in the Bay Area this season, including two in San Mateo County, officials said today. Area residents are advised to get flu shots, wash their hands, and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth, public health officials said. Flu shots typically protect against three to four different flu strains.

So far this season the H3N2 strain has been most common, but roughly half of the H3N2 samples analyzed show slight changes making this year’s vaccine somewhat less effective at protecting against it, officials said. They still recommend getting vaccinated, however, as the flu shot can protect against other potentially dangerous flu strains.

Individuals who fall ill are advised to limit their contact with others by staying home from work or school. Coughing or sneezing into your sleeve or elbow, rather than your hand, can also be helpful in preventing the spread of the flu virus.

Vaccination is recommended for anyone over the age of sixth months, and officials say it is important for individuals in high-risk categories like the elderly, pregnant women and children under five years old. People with medical conditions like diabetes, obesity, asthma and heart disease are also advised to get vaccinated.