SAN DIEGO - Four more deaths from influenza were reported in San Diego County on Tuesday by the Health and Human Services Agency.
Combined with two prior fatalities, the total in the region during the flu season now stands at six, all of whom had pre-existing medical conditions. County health officials warned that current flu strains cause severe symptoms, and they urged residents to get vaccinated.
"The best protection against the flu is to be vaccinated. It is not too late to do it," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "There is available vaccine for those who want to be immunized."
According to the HHSA, the victims were three elderly women -- aged 89, 91 and 92 -- a 49-year-old woman and two men, aged 49 and 66.
The vaccine is well-matched to the viruses that are circulating around San Diego, Wooten said.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months old and up get a flu vaccine every year, especially for those at higher risk of developing serious complications, including people with certain medical conditions, pregnant women and seniors.
The county has tallied 670 reported influenza cases during flu season, with nearly half occurring last week, according to the HHSA. The week before, 143 cases were reported.
The agency also reported that the number of patients seeking help at hospital emergency rooms for flu-like symptoms has jumped.
"Emergency departments should only be used by people who are severely ill," Wooten said. "People should go to an emergency department if they are having difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, sudden dizziness,
confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, or have flu-like symptoms that improve but then become worse."
The HHSA said residents can try to avoid the flu by washing hands thoroughly and often; using hand sanitizers; staying away from sick people; avoiding touching the eyes, nose, and mouth; and cleaning commonly touched surfaces.
People who get sick should stay home from work or school, rest, drink plenty of fluids and avoid contact with others, according to the agency.