Health

Flu Activity Slows with COVID-19 Preventative Measures in Place

woman blowing her nose Image Credit: PhotoSpin

While influenza activity in the region is currently lower compared to other recent seasons, cases for this season are higher than last, and County health officials continue to urge San Diegans to get vaccinated to prevent getting sick with the flu.

The County Health and Human Services Agency is reporting 139 lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week ending Jan. 1, a decrease from the previous week when 185 flu infections were reported.

Flu numbers can vary week to week, but County health officials believe lower influenza case counts may be the result of state COVID-19 mask mandates and other preventive measures San Diegans are taking to fight the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re seeing record numbers of COVID-19 infections in our community right now, and you don’t want to get the flu and COVID at the same time,” said Cameron Kaiser, M.D., M.P.H., County deputy public health officer. “Get vaccinated against the flu as soon as you can. Every flu case prevented makes more resources available to defeat COVID-19, and means you’re not getting sick – or worse.”

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 Jan. 1, 2022, the report shows the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 7% of all visits (compared with 5% the previous week)
  • Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 139 (compared to 185 the previous week)
  • Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 1,185 (compared to 224 at the same time last season and a 2,820 prior 5-year average during the same week)

How to Prevent the Flu

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every year. It takes about two weeks for immunity to develop. The CDC also indicates you can get a flu and COVID-19 vaccination at the same time, including a booster dose. The coronavirus vaccine does not work against influenza and vice versa.

The flu vaccine is especially important for people at higher risk of having serious complications from the virus.

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

The influenza vaccine is available at doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies and is covered by medical insurance. People with no health care coverage can get vaccinated at one of the County’s six public health centers or a local community clinic. To find the nearest location, visit the County’s Flu Vaccine Locations page or call 2-1-1 San Diego.

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

In 2020, a total of 848 influenza cases were reported in San Diego, including two deaths. In 2019, a total of 108 San Diegans died from influenza and more than 20,700 flu cases were reported.

 

Katie Cadiao is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact