Health

Flu Deaths Highest on Record

Last influenza season was the deadliest in San Diego since the County began tracking the disease.

Seventy people died due to complications from the flu, the highest number ever recorded by the County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA). That is five more deaths than the previous year and 12 more than the number of flu fatalities reported during the H1N1 Pandemic in the 2009-2010 flu season.

Although the majority of individuals who die from influenza are adults with pre-existing medical conditions, their deaths serve as a strong reminder for people to get vaccinated every year.

“Influenza can be deadly. Everyone six months and older should get a flu shot,” said Eric McDonald, M.D., M.P.H., medical director of the HHSA Epidemiology and Immunization Services Branch. “It takes two weeks for immunity to develop. Get yours now before the flu starts to spread.”

Community members joined McDonald and other health officials at a flu vaccination clinic today in Encanto. The eleventh annual event was organized by HHSA, the San Diego Immunization Coalition, AARP, and the San Diego Black Nurses Association to kick off the County’s annual influenza vaccination campaign, part of the County’s Live Well San Diego initiative.

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 your symptoms are under control
  • Pregnant women
  • People 65 years and older
  • People who live with or care for others who are at higher risk

“A flu shot can keep you from getting sick but it also protects those around you,” said Mark Sawyer, M.D., medical director of the San Diego Immunization Partnership and a member of the San Diego Immunization Coalition. “The vaccine is safe and effective. Millions of people get a flu shot every year and you should, too.”

This season’s vaccine covers the same strains of influenza as last year because these are the strains that have been circulating in countries around the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 151 to 159 million doses of flu vaccine will be available this season.

 “Getting a flu shot every year is important because the vaccine effectiveness declines over time,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “The best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year.”

The influenza vaccine is available throughout San Diego County at doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies and County public health centers for people with no medical insurance. Visit www.sdiz.org or call 2-1-1 San Diego to find a list of County locations.

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