Health

5 More San Diegans Die from Flu, Weekly Cases Hit Seasonal High

flu vaccination syringe

Five new influenza deaths were reported last week, and flu cases went up as well, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced today.

The five people who died include a 40-year-old man from North County with no underlying medical conditions and no known flu vaccination record in his medical history. The ages of the other flu deaths range from 47 to 90 years of age, and all had underlying medical conditions.

To date, a total of 54 influenza deaths have been reported in San Diego County. At the same time last season, 318 people had died from complications from the flu.

A total of 675 influenza cases were reported last week, a new high for the season. The total represents a 21 percent increase from the previous week when 536 cases were reported.

“Influenza can be deadly. People should continue getting vaccinated and taking other preventative measures, especially those at higher risk of developing complications,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “In addition to getting vaccinated, people should practice good hand hygiene.”

Due to continued elevated influenza activity in the county, the order for unvaccinated health care personnel to wear a mask while they’re in patient care areas has been extended until April 30. If influenza activity remains elevated, a further extension may be required.

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.

For the week ending March 23, 2019, the Influenza Watch report shows the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 5 percent of all visits (compared to 5 percent as the previous week).
  • Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 675 (compared to 536 the previous week).
  • Total influenza deaths to date: 54 (compared to 318 at this time last season).
  • Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 7,886 (compared to 19,841 at this time last season).

 How to Prevent 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