Health

9 More San Diegans Die from Influenza, Over 2,000 Cases Reported

flu vaccination syringe

An additional nine influenza deaths were reported in the region last week, bringing this season’s total to 20, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced today.

The ages of the new deaths ranged from 45 to 88 years of age. All had underlying medical conditions, except a 57-year-old San Diego woman who died Jan. 3.

Also, there was a significant spike in lab-confirmed influenza cases last week when a total of 2,095 cases were reported. In comparison, 510 flu cases were reported during the same week last season and 2,152 during the 2017-18 season.

“Influenza deaths are very unfortunate, but they occur every season,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “It is never too late to get vaccinated, since increased flu activity could last through May, and influenza viruses cause illness in San Diego year-round.”

When to Seek Medical Help

Influenza-like illnesses at local emergency departments dropped to 8% week, compared to 9% the prior week.

People with influenza-like symptoms continue to crowd local emergency departments and are taxing some hospitals.

County health officials are encouraging people who are sick to first contact their health care provider by telephone or arrange an urgent appointment.  You should go to an emergency department when you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or abdominal pain
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that appear to get better, but then return with a fever and worse cough

The County Health and Human Services Agency publishes the Influenza Watch weekly report, which tracks key flu indicators and summarizes influenza surveillance in the region.

For the week ending Jan. 11, 2020, the report shows the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 8% of all visits (compared to 9% the previous week)
  • Total influenza deaths to date: 20 (compared to 16 at this time last season)
  • Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 7,557 (compared to 2,643 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. It takes about two weeks for immunity to develop.

Flu 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 aged 65 years and older
  • 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
  • If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others

The flu vaccine is available at doctors’ offices 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 211 San Diego.

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