Flu Deaths Increase in San Diego; Influenza Still Widespread

Flu vaccine syringe
Flu vaccine syringe

The number of influenza deaths in San Diego jumped to 251 after 20 more fatalities were reported last week, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced today.

The ages of the people who have died from flu this season range from 1 to 101. Thirty-three (13 percent) of these deaths were of people under 65 years old, which are the only cases public health agencies are required to report in California. The County informs the public about all flu deaths.

“Influenza activity continues to be widespread and, unfortunately, more people are dying from the flu,” said Wilma Wooten M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “People should continue getting vaccinated and taking other preventive measures to prevent getting sick.”

Wooten explained that the predominant strain circulating this season has been influenza H3N2. This strain of influenza has a more severe impact in the elderly and the very young.

While the region and the country are experiencing a severe flu season, the high number of deaths identified here is also due to the County’s broad surveillance and use of reporting systems that provide fast and detailed results.

The number of lab-confirmed flu cases had declined for several weeks, but began to increase two weeks ago due in part to a surge in influenza B, which now accounts for nearly half of the cases. Influenza B reports increased to 448 last week from 335 the week before. This season’s flu vaccine offers protection against influenza A H3N2, pandemic H1N1-like and influenza B strains.

Also, the number of people who showed up at local emergency departments with influenza-like symptoms continued to decline last week, dropping from 6 to 5 percent of all visits.

For the week ending Feb. 10, 2018, the County Health and Human Services Agency’ Influenza Watch report shows the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 5 percent of all visits (compared to 6 percent the previous week)
  • Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 941 (compared to 846 the previous week)
  • Total influenza deaths to date: 251 (compared to 44 at this time last season)
  • Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 16,078 (compared to 3,368 last season)

It’s Not Too Late for a Flu Shot

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated. The vaccine is safe and effective. It takes two weeks for immunity to develop.

CDC also recommends that people should prevent the spread of germs and take antivirals when prescribed by a doctor. Some local pharmacies may be out of specific medications, but there is no national shortage of antivirals. Sick people should call around if their local pharmacy is out and send a family member or friend to pick up the medications to avoid exposing others to the virus.

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 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 or call 2-1-1.

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