Update: 3:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1: The two homeless men who died from influenza in January were each 58 years old, but were not related, the county's health officer said.
Dr. Marty Fenstersheib said their deaths Jan. 11 and Jan. 13 were reported to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department by the Medical Examiner's Office.
Along with the two deaths, Fenstersheib said there have been three severe flu cases, which were also required to be reported to county health officials, as the patients were admitted to area hospitals' intensive care units. Fortunately, none of these patients died and have now recovered.
Across the state, there have been a total of 14 flu-related deaths, with the three in the county being a part of those, Fenstersheib said.
According to trends influenza this year, the county is still trending upwards seeing more severe cases of the flu virus and the area has not "peaked" yet, meaning when the region will reach the maximum number of flu cases reported to hospitals and being treated at health-care facilities.
"We don't know when we will peak, but we haven't yet," Fenstersheib said.
California is one of 50 states that's taking longer to get to that "peak" designation, Fenstersheib explained, but it's not unusual for the county to peak later in February and sometimes in March. "We're still seeing a lot of flu. There's still time for people to get their flu vaccine from their health-care provider or a local retail pharmacy. We recommend it for everyone 6-months-old and up."
Fenstersheib reminded the public that there are other viruses out there making them sick. "Not everything is the flu. Other respiratory viruses can afflict us."
Dr. Sara Doorley, medical director of the Valley Homeless Healthcare Program, noted there are a lot of homeless people in the county and at any one night there's an estimated 7,000 transients sleeping on the streets.
During the last several months, Doorley's program has been providing care and identifying those who are sick and outreaching with their mobile vaccine van giving shots for free. "They've gone into shelters, clinics, but they've also taken the mobile van to camps," Fenstersheib said. "A lot has been done, but we will continue to vaccinate people."
About the flu shot's efficacy, Fenstersheib said it's a good match with the strain of the virus that's making people sick.
Two Santa Clara County homeless men under the age of 65 died from influenza in January, health officials said Friday.
The deaths are in addition to one reported Jan. 17 in which a 98-year-old woman succumbed to the deadly influenza virus.
Santa Clara County Public Health Department officials are holding a news conference this afternoon at their headquarters on Lenzen Avenue in San Jose to discuss the new cases.
Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county's health officer, is expected to elaborate on the recent cases and the influenza season in Santa Clara County.
Dr. Sara Doorley, medical director of the Valley Homeless Healthcare Program, will explain actions taken to protect the county’s homeless population through vaccines and education.
Santa Clara County Public Health Department spokeswoman Amy Cornell said she didn't know the exact date of the deaths, but would have detailed information at the news conference. She said she was certain the men perished the first part of January.
She also could not say where in the county they died and reiterated that there's no cause for alarm. "Dr. Fenstersheib will talk about that [reasons for concern], but we definitely still want to remind people that it's not too late to get their flu shot," she said.
Cornell added that these are the first two flu deaths of people in the county under the age of 65, which are generally required to be reported to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.
The elderly woman's flu death was reported to the county health officials through a different alert system, she said. She was said to be suffering from other medical conditions at the time of the death.
Dr. Sara Cody, a deputy health officer with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, said in January the public can prevent and reduce the risk of getting the flu by everyone getting a flu shot, washing hands frequently, staying away from those who are ill and strongly encouraging those who are sick to stay home.
—This post will be updated as more information is released today about the deaths by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.