Flu Deaths Up to 19; Vaccination Urged
While the number of laboratory-confirmed cases also increased, the total being reported is still within levels expected for a moderate influenza season.
Based on the latest Influenza Watch report, covering the week ending Jan. 26, 2013, the County Health and Human Services Agency is reporting the following:
- Total influenza deaths: 19 (up from 14)
- Influenza-like-illness at emergency departments: 12 percent (10 percent last week)
- New lab-confirmed influenza cases: 861 (503 last week)
- Total lab-confirmed influenza cases to date: 2,041 (up from 1,179)
The age range of the deceased is from 46 to 97 years and all but one had underlying medical conditions or advanced age. The total number of deaths surpassed last flu season when 14 deaths were reported and is now the fourth highest on record. A higher number of deaths were reported the following flu seasons:
- 2003-2004: 22
- 2010-2011: 24 (8 were Pandemic H1N1)
- 2009-2010: 58 (51 were Pandemic H1N1)
“Influenza continues to be widespread and, unfortunately, five more people died from complications from the flu,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “We have had mild flu seasons in the past two years, while this year has strains that are making people sicker. That is why it is extremely important that people get vaccinated to avoid getting sick.”
Influenza is especially dangerous for the elderly, pregnant women and young infants, as well as for people with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or a compromised immune system.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone six months and older, who are not allergic, get a flu vaccine every year. The vaccine is safe and effective and there is still plenty vaccine available at many locations. 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; it is well matched for the viruses that are circulating, and has been determined by the CDC to be 62% effective.
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.
“It is not too late to get vaccinated,” added Wooten. “The flu season could last for a few more months.”
Most people who become ill, Wooten said, will not need medical attention and should recuperate at home. If symptoms do not improve or become worse, individuals should seek medical attention from their doctor or urgent care provider, but not an emergency department.
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.