SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Four more recent deaths in the Bay Area are being attributed to the flu. Public Health officials are warning people to use precaution as they head to Super Bowl gatherings this weekend.
"This is the most severe season we've seen in years," noted Scott Alonso, Sonoma County Department of Health Services.
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Sonoma County has seen 12 severe influenza cases, two of them fatal. Alonso says the county has one death recorded officially and that the second death reported by Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital may not be counted yet. The flu is also being blamed for the death of two elderly brothers in Moraga last month.
"The CDC is reporting the most hospitalizations for the flu since 2005. So this is real, it's here, we want people to be safe," said Alonso.
With so many people gathering this weekend to watch the Super Bowl, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Red Cross are running safety campaigns.
The suggestions are basic hygiene like washing your hands, making sure food is properly heated, don't share drink glasses, and Alanso adds, "Don't double dip as George Costanza did in Seinfeld."
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While the food at neighborhood parties may be a gamble, local restaurants are required to have food handler's permits.
The owner of Sprenger's Tap Room and Restaurant is a self-described "germophobe." He says employees must take sick days. "When they are sick they can't come into work. We don't want them to work because we don't want them touching the food, the drinks, anything that's going to get our customers sick," explained Kevin Sprenger.
The restaurant is prepared for the big game. They're stocked with hand sanitizer on the bar and soap in the bathrooms.
"And we have back-up so if we run out, we have more, there's no doubt about it," said Sprenger.
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But if you could be contagious, just stay home, say experts.
"So not only stay home when you're sick, but even give yourself an extra day because it could still be lingering in your body," explained Alonso.
Medical experts still recommend getting a flu shot as your best protection.
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