25 More Flu Deaths in San Diego County

County health officials say there were 25 more influenza-related deaths reported in San Diego County last week and lab-confirmed flu cases went up due in part to a spike in influenza B cases.

The new deaths bring this season’s total to 231. The ages of this season’s flu fatalities range from 1 to 101. Thirty-one (13 percent) of these deaths were people under 65 years old, which are the only cases public health agencies are required to report in California. The County informs the public about all flu deaths.

“A high number of deaths can typically be associated with severe seasons when the influenza A/H3 virus causes most of the illnesses,” said Wilma Wooten M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “The flu is still going strong and we’re seeing an increase in influenza B cases which typically occur later in the flu season. That is why it’s important that people continue getting vaccinated and taking other preventive measures.”

The number of influenza B cases reported last week was 335, or 40 percent of the cases. This is double the percentage of influenza B cases for the whole season, indicating the relatively larger impact it is having now. This season’s flu vaccine offers protection against influenza A H3N2, pandemic H1N1-like and two influenza B strains,

Wooten explained that in addition to this being a severe flu season, the County’s broad surveillance and use of reporting systems that provide fast and detailed results are also contributing to the high local counts of flu deaths compared to prior years and other parts of the country.

On a positive note, the number of people showing up at emergency departments due to influenza-like illness decreased last week, from 6 to 5 percent.

For the week ending Feb. 3, 2018, the County Health and Human Services Agency is reporting the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 5 percent of all visits (compared to 6 percent the previous week)
  • Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 835 (compared to 615 the previous week)
  • Total influenza deaths to date: 231 (compared to 39 at this time last season)
  • Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 15,135 (compared to 2,777 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.

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 or friend 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.

(Photo Credit County NewsCenter)

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