Health

Flu Deaths Increase to 64, Cases Continue to Decline

Flu vaccine syringe
Flu vaccine syringe

The number of influenza cases in the region continued to decline last week, and five additional flu deaths were reported, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced today.

The ages of the five flu fatalities ranged from 47 to 77 years of age and all had underlying medical conditions. The new deaths bring this season’s total to 64. In comparison, 339 flu fatalities had been reported at the same time last year.

The number of lab-confirmed cases decreased to 249 cases last week, from 312 cases the week before. To date, a total of 9,012 flu cases have been reported this season, compared to the 20,539 cases that had been reported last year.

Also, the percentage of people with influenza-like illness at local emergency departments went down from 4% to 3% last week.

The most commonly identified flu strain causing local illnesses is now influenza A H3N2, which tends to sicken the elderly and the very young, as well as those with chronic medical conditions. Influenza A Pandemic H1N1 continues to circulate and a low number of influenza B viruses are also being reported.

“While the numbers continue to decline, the flu season is not over yet,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “It is never too late to get a flu shot since influenza cases are reported year round.”

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 April 13, 2019, the Influenza Watch report shows the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 3% of all visits (compared to 4% the previous week).
  • Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 249 (compared to 312 the previous week).
  • Total influenza deaths to date: 64 (compared to 339 at this time last season).
  • Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 9,012 (compared to 20,539 at this time 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; 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