Health officials report significant increase in flu deaths

A public health nurse demonstrates drawing flu vaccine from a bottle at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. Flu season in the U.S. has struck early and, in many places, hard. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

January 18, 2014 2:37:37 PM PST
The California Department of Public Health is reporting a significant increase in the number of flu deaths.

California health officials say 45 people have died so far this flu season, including two babies.

The California Department of Public Health said Friday it is investigating an additional 50 deaths. The state only tracks flu-related deaths among people 65 and younger.

State health director Dr. Ron Chapman says the flu season appears to be peaking early and it may be a severe one.

At this time last year, the number of fatal flu cases statewide stood at five.

Here in the Bay Area, county health departments report a total of 23 flu deaths.

The latest victims are two South Bay women ages 52 and 62.

Health officials say there's plenty of vaccine available and are urging immunizations for people at highest risk including the elderly, pregnant women and infants.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.