Health

Flu Spreads Easily at Holiday Parties and Family Events

Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot every year.
Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot every year.

If you’re planning on attending a work gathering or holiday event, the County Health and Human Services Agency wants to make sure the only thing you give is gifts and not the flu.

How can you avoid getting sick? By getting a flu shot.

“The flu can spread easily when large groups of people gather at holiday parties or family events,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “Vaccination is the best protection against influenza. Get a flu shot now to avoid getting sick and infecting others.”

Last season, 342 San Diegans died from complications from the flu, the highest total since the County began tracking flu deaths nearly 20 years ago. The majority of those who died last season were over the age of 65, had underlying medical conditions and had not been vaccinated. Two children also died from influenza last year.

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 Dec. 1, 2018, the Influenza Watch report shows the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 3 percent of all visits (compared to 3 percent the previous week)
  • Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 106 (compared to 108 the previous week)
  • Total influenza deaths to date: 2 (compared to 4 at this time last season)
  • Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 463 (compared to 856 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
  • 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, 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