5 new flu-related deaths reported in San Diego County

SAN DIEGO - Five more influenza-related deaths have been confirmed in San Diego County this flu season, bringing the total to 12, the county Health and Human Services Agency announced Thursday.

County health officials said those who died from flu-related causes were between the ages of 35 and 91, and all had underlying medical conditions.

Many more young and middle-aged adults are being diagnosed with the illness compared to last year, which is expected with the H1N1 strain, the agency reported.

"Influenza is widespread in San Diego, and if you have not gotten vaccinated, it's not too late to do it," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "The predominant influenza virus circulating in San Diego this season is Pandemic H1N1. This is similar to the flu seen in other parts of the country."

HHSA officials said 545 local lab-confirmed cases of the flu were reported in the week ending last Friday. The previous week, 704 cases were reported.

So far during flu season, 1,965 cases have been confirmed, according to the county health agency.

Last season, 65 flu-related deaths were reported in San Diego County.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older be vaccinated for flu every year. The vaccine is especially important for people who are at higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu, including people with certain medical conditions, pregnant women, and people 65 years and older.

People can also avoid the flu by thorough and frequent hand washing; using hand sanitizers; staying away from sick people; refraining from touching the eyes, nose, and mouth; cleaning commonly touched surfaces; and if sick, staying home and avoiding contact with others.

The vaccine is available throughout the county at doctors' offices and retail pharmacies.

County public health centers have the flu vaccine available for children and adults with no medical insurance. A list of locations is available online at sdiz.org, or calling 211.

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