During the 2018-19 flu season, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) reported 125 influenza-related deaths. Last month, DPH reported the County’s first flu-related fatality this season. Sadly, individuals with underlying medical conditions and senior citizens are less likely to be vaccinated and more prone to complications and hospitalizations once they contract the virus. In response, today the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion, authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and co-authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn, that directs DPH to assess existing outreach efforts to enhance the County’s reach to senior citizens and others at-risk of becoming gravely ill, and dying, due to influenza.

“The flu is a serious illness that can lead to complications, and even result in death, for vulnerable senior citizens, individuals from low-income households, and people with a weakened immune system – that is why I urge everyone to get vaccinated,” said Supervisor Solis. “Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread the virus to others. Immunization is effective, and it is as important as wearing a seat belt.”

“We have made getting a flu shot so easy,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “We are offering free flu shots at locations across the County. The flu is a potentially deadly virus, especially for older adults and people with health conditions. Take a few minutes out of your day to get your annual flu shot. You won’t regret it.”

Health officials urge immunization for everyone 6 months and older. Recent research has shown that the flu does not affect all demographics equally. Individuals from low-income households are not only more vulnerable to get the flu and end up in a hospital, but are also more likely to experience symptoms resulting in intensive care unit admissions and even death. Nationally, vaccination rates are lowest among traditionally underserved minority groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC also estimates that, in recent years, between 70 and 90 percent of all flu-related deaths reported nationally occurred among people 65 years or older. Senior citizens are also more vulnerable to develop underlying medical conditions, such as chronic lung or heart disease. During 2018-19 flu season, 77 of the 125 flu-related deaths reported to DPH were among those who were 65 years or older.

Today’s motion directs DPH to assess existing flu outreach efforts and provide culturally and linguistically sensitive outreach to targeted populations. DPH will coordinate this effort with the Department of Workforce Developing, Aging, and Community Services, the Department of Public Social Services, the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Health Services, and other County agencies that work with senior citizens.

This motion requires a 90-day report back and also directs the County to urge immunization among its employees, given that working-age adults typically have the lowest flu vaccine rates, and LA County is Southern California’s largest employer.

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Contact: Rosa Maria Santana, Deputy Communications Director, 213-359-0795 or rsantana@bos.lacounty.gov