Health

Flu Deaths, Cases Up in San Diego County

flu vaccine
The Flu Season is Upon Us; It's Not too Late to Vaccinate

Seven more influenza deaths were reported locally last week, and cases also set a new high for the season, signs that influenza is still widespread in the region, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced today.

The new flu deaths bring this season’s total to 42. The ages of the seven people who died from the flu ranged from 53 to 90 years of age. All had underlying medical conditions and only two had gotten vaccinated. A total of 281 flu deaths had been reported at the same time last year.

“Influenza can be deadly, especially for those with existing illnesses,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer.

A total of 545 lab-confirmed flu cases were reported last week, 10 more than the week before. Also, the percentage of people who went to local emergency departments with influenza-like illness also increased to 6 percent last week.

“Influenza is still widespread in the region and continues to sicken San Diegans. Anyone who has not yet had a flu vaccine this season should get it now,” Wooten said.

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. 23, 2019, the Influenza Watch report shows the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 6 percent of all visits (compared to 5 percent previous week).
  • Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 545 (compared to 535 the previous week).
  • Total influenza deaths to date: 42 (compared to 281 at this time last season).
  • Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 5,486 (compared to 17,397 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