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Sonoma County resident is 4th recent North Coast flu death

  • Medical assistant Susan Savant administers a nasal spray flu vaccine to Alex Roh, at the Annadel Medical Group office, in Santa Rosa on Thursday, January 9, 2014. The nasal spray flu vaccine contains weakened live influenza viruses, while the shots contains dead viruses. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

A 23-year-old Sonoma County man died Wednesday from complications of the H1N1 flu, a strain similar to the virus that caused the swine flu pandemic in 2009, county health officials said.

Also, two H1N1-related deaths in Marin County and one in Mendocino County have been reported this week as public health officials urge the public to get vaccinated against the flu.

The Sonoma County resident who died is among nine local residents who have been diagnosed with severe cases of the flu, said Karen Holbrook, the county's interim public health officer. A severe flu case is one where a patient either is admitted to an intensive care unit or dies.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to the family," Holbrook said. "While the vast majority of cases of flu have mild or moderate illness. Sadly this tragic death reminds all of us that influenza is a very serious illness."

Holbrook would not release information about the patient out of respect for the privacy of the individual's family. She would only say that the individual was previously healthy. Other sources identified person as male.

The death occurs at a time when reports of H1N1 illness and death are on the rise in counties across the state, as well as in other states. The highest rates of flu illness have been documented in the South and Southeast.

"Overall surveillance says it's been H1N1," Holbrook said. "That's what's circulating this season."

Mendocino County health officials reported Thursday that an adult there died on Dec. 30 from chronic conditions complicated by H1N1 flu. Mendocino health officials also reported that eight patients have been admitted to local hospitals with confirmed H1N1 flu.

In Marin County, two people have died from complications of influenza, said Dr. Matt Willis, the county's public health officer.

Willis said the first case involved a 63-year-old man who died in late December. The man had contracted influenza A, of which H1N1 is a subtype. Willis said the determination of the precise virus type is still pending.

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