Health

Flu Deaths Increase to 74, Cases Decrease in San Diego

The number of local influenza deaths increased to 74 after 11 additional fatalities were reported last week, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced today.

The new flu deaths include a 26-year-old woman from South County who died Feb. 13 from influenza B. Only two of the 11 reported deaths occurred last week, and all had underlying medical conditions.

“Influenza can be deadly, especially for those with existing chronic health conditions,” said Wilma J. Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “Getting a flu shot is the best way to prevent from getting sick.”

The number of lab-confirmed cases decreased last week, when 1,232 cases were reported. That’s 402 fewer flu cases compared to the previous week. To date, a total of 17,935 cases have been reported.

Also, fewer people showed up at local emergency departments with influenza-like illness last week; 6% of all visits. The figure was 7% the week before.

The County Health and Human Services Agency publishes the Influenza Watch weekly report, which tracks key flu indicators and summarizes influenza surveillance in the region.

For the week ending Feb. 22, 2020, the report shows the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 6% of all visits (compared to 7% the previous week).
  • Total influenza deaths to date: 74 (compared to 41 at this time last season).
  • Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 17,935 (compared to 5,486 last season).

When to Seek Medical Help

People with influenza-like symptoms continue to crowd local emergency departments and are taxing some hospitals.

County health officials are encouraging people who are sick to first contact their health care provider by telephone or arrange an urgent appointment.  You should go to an emergency department when you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or abdominal pain
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that appear to get better, but then return with a fever and worse cough

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. It takes about two weeks for immunity to develop.

Flu 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 aged 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 www.sdiz.org or call 211 San Diego.

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