Health

Late-season Influenza Death a Reminder to Get Vaccinated

A late-season flu death of a 36-year-old San Diego man is a tragic reminder to County residents that the flu can strike at any time of the year.

The man died from complications of influenza B on June 9 the County Health and Human Services Agency announced today. The previously healthy man had an unknown vaccination status and had not traveled out of the San Diego area.

“Most flu cases in San Diego are in the winter and early spring, but many people are unaware that influenza can cause illness at any time of the year,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “It’s never too late to get a flu shot.”

The death brings to 67 the number of flu-related deaths in 2015-16 reporting period. The ages of those who have died this season range from 9 to 98, and eight had no known underlying medical conditions.  Flu season illnesses and deaths are reported from July 1 through June 30 each year.  There were 97 flu deaths reported during the 2014-15 flu season.

The 2015–16 influenza season peaked the last week of February in San Diego, somewhat later than usual. Similar to other parts of the country, pandemic influenza A H1N1 was the most commonly reported flu strain in the region, but influenza A H3N2 and influenza B viruses have also been present throughout the season.

Your Best Shot Against the Flu

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

The 2015-16 seasonal flu vaccine offers protection against several strains of the flu including influenza A H3N2, pandemic H1N1-like, and influenza B strains.  The 2016-17 flu vaccines will have different components and people are urged to get that show when it becomes available in the fall.

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

Travelers should also be up-to-date with flu and other vaccines.  Influenza is active throughout the year in tropical parts of the world.  In the temperate regions of the Southern Hemisphere, more influenza illnesses typically occur between April and September. In the Northern Hemisphere, flu activity increases as early as October and may not decrease until April or May.

Other Tips to Stay Healthy

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 Community Health Center or County public health center to get vaccinated. For a list of locations, visit sdiz.org or call 2-1-1.

Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact