Local flu season may have peaked

SAN DIEGO - Six influenza-related deaths in San Diego County were reported to public health officials last week, but reported cases of the virus dropped for the second week in a row, the county Health and Human Services Agency announced Wednesday.

The "flu season" death toll hit 35, with most of the victims either elderly or already suffering from a medical condition. Last year, there were 65 flu-related deaths.

The HHSA said 297 laboratory-confirmed flu cases were reported last week, compared to 460 the week prior and more than 600 the week before that.

That brings the season total to nearly 3,400, according to the agency.

"Influenza can be unpredictable, but after two weeks of declines in the number of lab-confirmed cases, it appears flu activity has peaked this season," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer. "However, the flu season typically lasts through March and early April, so people should continue taking preventive measures, including getting vaccinated."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine 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.

The flu vaccine offers protection against the Pandemic H1N1, Influenza A H3N2 and Influenza B strains. It takes about two weeks for immunity to develop after getting vaccinated.

The flu vaccine is available at doctors' offices and retail pharmacies. Those without medical insurance can go to a county public health center to get vaccinated. A list of locations is available online at www.sdiz.org or by calling 2-1-1.

Health officials suggest that in addition to getting vaccinated, people should wash their hands thoroughly and often, use hand sanitizers and avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth. They should also stay away from ill people, clean commonly touched surfaces and remain home when sick.

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