01/22/2013 02:41 pm ET

San Francisco Flu Death: First Flu-Related Fatality Reported In Bay Area Region

The San Francisco Bay Area has registered its first flu-related death in an intense season that's caused more than 4,000 hospitalizations across the country.

A 98-year old woman died in Santa Clara County earlier this month due to complications relating to the flu.

This incident brings the total number of Californians who have died from the flu this season to five.

"We've definitely seen a heavier volume increase of flu related illnesses compared to last couple of years," Dr. Kadeer Halimi, an emergency room physician at Washington Hospital in Fremont, told CBS San Francisco. "Especially last week, we've had a significant rise in young kids as well as patients from nursing homes."

While the flu had wracked other areas of the country (even going as far as forcing Boston mayor Thomas Menino to declare a "public health emergency"), the virus has only recently made serious inroads into California.

Last week, California was one of only a small handful of states that Google Flu Trends rated as having "high" rather than "intense" flu infection. That rating has since jumped to "intense".

State health officials, who note California's flu season doesn't typically peak until February or March, have urged flu shots. "The best defense against the flu is getting vaccinated," California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ron Chapman said in a statement. "This year's vaccine is an excellent match against this year’s influenza strains."

Bay Area residents can visit to find out where to get free flu shots.

Check out how San Franciscans are dealing with the flu in the way they know best: complaining about it on Twitter (warning: NSFW):

San Francisco Flu Reactions