- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California health officials said Friday that 147 people in the state have died from the flu this season, surpassing last season’s death toll.

Four of the deaths involved children. The California Department of Public Health was investigating an additional 44 deaths as possibly flu-related

The state only tracks influenza deaths among people 65 and younger. The death toll does not include the elderly, who are most vulnerable. Last season, a total of 106 flu-related deaths were recorded in the state.

“This influenza season continues to be a severe one as the increasing number of influenza-related deaths indicates,” Dr. Ron Chapman, the state health officer, said in a statement. “Once again, I urge all Californians to get vaccinated, because it is the best defense against influenza.”

The hardest-hit county was Los Angeles with 17 deaths, followed by Sacramento County with 15 deaths.

The dominant strain this season is the H1N1 strain, also known as swine flu. The strain seriously affects young and middle-aged people.

A swine flu pandemic in 2009 and 2010 killed at least 150,000 people worldwide.

State health officials said there’s no vaccine shortage and recommended those at highest risk - the elderly, pregnant women and children - get immunized.

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