Another 18 influenza deaths were reported last week, bringing this season’s total to 269, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced Wednesday.
San Diego County Newscenter -- The ages of the people who have died from flu this season range from 1 to 101. Thirty-four (13 percent) of these deaths were of 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.
“Influenza deaths are very unfortunate, but they occur in higher numbers during a severe flu season,” said Wilma Wooten M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “If you haven’t gotten vaccinated, do it now since the flu season can last through April and, sometimes, later.”
The predominant strain circulating in the county and the country this season has been influenza H3N2. This strain of influenza has a more severe impact in the elderly and the very young.
A higher number of flu deaths are typically reported during a severe influenza season, which the county and the nation are currently experiencing. In San Diego County, the high number of flu deaths is also due to the County’s broad surveillance and use of reporting systems that provide fast and detailed results.
The number of lab-confirmed flu cases declined last week—from 973 to 721—, after two weeks of increases due primarily to a surge in influenza B cases. This season’s flu vaccine offers protection against influenza A H3N2, pandemic H1N1-like and influenza B strains.
The percentage of people who showed up at local emergency departments with influenza-like symptoms stayed the same last week at 5 percent of all visits. The highest percentage—13 percent—was reported in late December.
For the week ending Feb. 17, 2018, the County Health and Human Services Agency’ Influenza Watch report shows the following:
- Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 5 percent of all visits (compared to 5 percent the previous week)
- Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 721 (compared to 973 the previous week)
- Total influenza deaths to date: 269 (compared to 49 at this time last season)
- Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 16,827 (compared to 3,786 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.