Health

14-Year-Old San Diego Girl Dies from Flu

Flu vaccine syringe
Flu vaccine syringe

A 14-year-old girl with an underlying medical condition died from influenza last week and is the first San Diego County child to die from the flu this season, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced today.

The teenager from San Diego died Feb. 12 from influenza A Pandemic H1N1. She had not gotten this season’s flu vaccine. There were two pediatric flu deaths last season and two during the 2016-17 season.

“Pediatric influenza deaths are very unfortunate. Our condolences go out to the family,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “It is extremely important that people get vaccinated because influenza can be deadly.”

The teenager is one of five flu deaths reported last week. The other deaths were four men—ages 82, 73, 62 and 56. All four had underlying medical conditions, and only the 82-year-old and the 56-year-old had been vaccinated.

To date, 35 San Diegans have died from influenza this season. A total of 268 had died from the flu at the same time last year.

A total of 539 lab-confirmed flu cases were reported last week, the highest weekly total of the season. When the specific influenza type was reported, the majority were influenza A Pandemic H1N1, which has been true throughout the season.

Typically, the Pandemic H1N1 virus sickens younger people more than others because younger and middle-aged adults have not been exposed to the H1N1 virus as much as older adults, and these groups typically have the lowest vaccination rates in the nation.

“Influenza continues to be widespread. If you have not gotten a flu shot, do it now,” Wooten added.

The County Health and Human Services Agency publishes the weekly Influenza Watch report, which tracks key flu indicators and summarizes influenza surveillance in the region. All other indicators are at expected levels for this time of year.

For the week ending Feb. 16, 2019, the Influenza Watch report shows the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 5 percent of all visits (the same as the previous week).
    • Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 539 (compared to 476 the previous week).
    • Total influenza deaths to date: 35 (compared to 268 at this time last season).
    • Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 4,947 (compared to 16,859 at this time last season).

Your Best Shot Against the Flu

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every year. The vaccine is safe and effective. It takes two weeks for immunity to develop.

Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk of developing serious complications from influenza. They include:

  • People with chronic medical conditions, like asthma, diabetes and lung disease, even if symptoms are under control;
  • Pregnant women;
  • People 65 years and older; and
  • People who live with or care for others who are at higher risk.

In addition to getting vaccinated, people should also do the following to avoid getting sick:

  • Wash hands thoroughly and often;
  • Use hand sanitizers;
  • Stay away from sick people;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth;
  • Clean commonly touched surfaces; and
  • If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others.

The flu vaccine is available at doctors’ offices, community clinics, and retail pharmacies. If you don’t have medical insurance, you can go to a County public health center to get vaccinated. For a list of locations, visit www.sdiz.org or call 2-1-1.

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact