SANTA FE (KRQE) - The seasonal outbreak of flu has claimed five lives, the New Mexico Department of Health said Thursday in reporting the state's first confirmed fatalities.
The deaths were spread among four counties:
- Bernalillo County -- 67-year-old woman
- Chaves County -- 56-year-old man
- Lea County -- 57-year-old woman
- Rio Arriba County -- 91- and 94-year-old woman
"We do expect to have deaths every year from influenza unfortunately, but this year we've started earlier and have this first five," Dr. Chad Smelser of the DOH told KRQE News 13. "It's a good warning for everyone out there to get their flu vaccine."
All five victims were considered to be at high risk for flu complication either because of their age or underlying health issues, according to the DOH.
Meanwhile there are indications the flu season may have peaked as the 63 doctors and medical laboratories routinely reporting to the DOH last week listed 4.6 percent of patients as have "influenza-like illness." That's the second consecutive week that number has declined for its high of around 7 percent.
The DOH also said this season's flu vaccine is a good match for the strains circulating in New Mexico and released this information on flu vaccinations:
The Department recommends people call their physician and pharmacies. The Department's public health offices provide vaccine to people who are at high risk for serious illness or death and people who have no health insurance.
Public health offices are listed in the phonebook's blue pages under state government. Contact information for public health offices is listed at www.nmhealth.org .
For information about the flu and flu vaccine clinics around the state, call the Immunization Hotline toll-free at 1-866-681-5872 or visit the DOH Influenza Vaccine website .
While everyone should get a flu vaccine each flu season, it's especially important that people in the following groups get vaccinated, either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications:
- Pregnant women (any trimester)
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- People age 50 and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, and lung or heart disease and those with immunosuppressions from medication or disease
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including health care workers and caregivers of babies younger than 6 months
- American Indians and Alaskan Natives
- People who are morbidly obese
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