Health

Record Flu Deaths Reported in San Diego; Cases Down Again

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The number of flu deaths reported in San Diego County reached a new high, while at the same time lab-confirmed cases went down again, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced today.

A total of 142 flu deaths have been reported through Jan. 13, 2018, the highest ever since the County began tracking fatalities about 20 years ago. The previous deadliest flu season was in 2014-15, when 97 deaths were reported.

Also the number of lab-confirmed cases dropped for the second week in a row from 3,046 to 2,070, a sign that although flu activity is still elevated, it may have peaked.

“Unfortunately, after a high number of flu cases is reported, deaths typically follow,” said Wilma Wooten M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “We continue to monitor flu activity in the region to see if cases and emergency room activity will continue to drop and determine whether the season has peaked.”

Wooten explained that the record number of deaths could be because the County is now using electronic reporting systems that make it easier for reporting and for public health staff to identify flu-related deaths. The high number of cases being reported this year, Wooten added, reflects better testing and surveillance systems in the region, as well as a more severe influenza season than in recent years.

For the week ending Jan. 13, 2018, the County Health and Human Services Agency is reporting the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 7 percent of all visits (compared to 11 percent the previous week)
  • Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 2,070 (compared to 3,046 the previous week)
  • Total influenza deaths to date: 142 (compared to 14 at this time last season)
  • Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 12,446 (compared to 1,788 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.

The 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 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 www.sdiz.org or call 2-1-1.

 

 

 

 

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