Sixty San Diegans have died from complications related to the flu this season, the County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) announced today.
The new total surpasses the 58 deaths reported during the 2009-2010 H1N1 Pandemic Flu season. Most of the dead this season were elderly people and all but one had underlying medical conditions.
The record number of reported deaths, County health officials say, may be due to the presence of a more severe strain of influenza— Influenza A H3N2—circulating this season.
“Influenza deaths are very unfortunate but serve as a strong reminder that people should get vaccinated,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “Severe strains of influenza, such as H3N2, are especially dangerous for the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions.”
Influenza activity has decreased significantly in the region from the peak in late January and early February this year. Based on the latest Influenza Watch report, covering the week ending March 30, 2013, HHSA is reporting the following:
- Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 58
- Influenza-like-illness at emergency departments during the week: 2 percent
- Total lab-confirmed influenza cases to date: 5,344
While influenza commonly affects the elderly, other individuals including pregnant women, infants, and people with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or a compromised immune system are also at higher risk for complications.
The influenza season typically ends in early April, but influenza may be present throughout the year. County health officials say that it is never too late to be vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months or older, who is not allergic to it, should get a flu vaccine every year. The vaccine is safe, effective, and available at many locations in the county. It takes about two weeks for immunity to develop after getting vaccinated.
This season’s flu vaccine offers protection against Influenza A H3N2, Pandemic H1N1-like, and Influenza B strains. Latest research by CDC has determined the vaccine to be 59 percent effective. However, it is still considered one of the best steps one can take for preventing influenza.
The vaccine is available throughout San Diego County at doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies. County public health centers have flu vaccine available for children and adults with no medical insurance. For a list of locations, visit www.sdiz.org or call 2-1-1.
In addition to getting the vaccine, there are other precautions people can take to avoid getting sick: wash your hands thoroughly and often, use hand sanitizers, stay away from sick people, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth and clean commonly touched surfaces. If you are sick, stay home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and avoid contact with others.