Health

Flu Cases Tick Up, But Still Down Significantly From Last Year

vaccine-vial-syringe

There was an uptick in the number of flu cases reported in San Diego County last week, but the number is within expected levels and total cases are still down significantly from last year at this time.

Cases nearly doubled to 113 for the week, compared to 59 reported in the previous week. But that number isn’t significantly different than the 102 reported for this week last year, and the total of 361 cases to date is much lower than the 675 at this time last flu season.

“We didn’t see a huge increase in the number of cases until later in the flu season last year,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “Flu activity typically increases during the holidays and can last until April or May.

“Vaccination is the best protection against influenza. December 2-8 is National Influenza Vaccination Week and we encourage people to get a flu shot so they are protected during family, friend or work gatherings this holiday season.”

Last season, 342 San Diegans died from complications from the flu, the highest total since the County began tracking flu deaths nearly 20 years ago. The majority of those who died last season were over the age of 65, had underlying medical conditions and had not been vaccinated. Two children also died from influenza last year.

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 Nov. 24, 2018, the Influenza Watch report shows the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 3 percent of all visits (compared to 3 percent the previous week)
  • Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 113 (compared to 59 the previous week)
  • Total influenza deaths to date: 2 (compared 4 at this time last season)
  • Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 361 (compared to 675 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
  • 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, 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.

Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact