A half-dozen deaths related to influenza were reported in the San Diego region last week, including a 9-year-old boy, bringing the "flu season" toll to 56, county health officials reported Wednesday.
The boy, who died Saturday, suffered from influenza B and had an existing medical condition, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency. He was the second child to die in the San Diego area this year from a flu-related cause.
"A child dying from influenza is tragic," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "Our sympathy and condolences go out to the family for their loss."
This season's toll is still well below the 91 flu deaths recorded at this time last year. According to the HHSA, the victims ranged in age from 9 to 98, and all but seven had an underlying medical condition.
The HHSA also reported that the rate of infections is continuing to drop, to 281 last week from nearly 400 the week prior. Almost 5,600 cases have been confirmed by laboratory testing during flu season, compared to more than 6,600 at this point in 2015.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu shots annually for everyone at least 6 months old. Vaccination is more important for people with weakened immune systems, as well as those who are pregnant, elderly or live with or care for others at high risk.
Other suggestions for staying healthy include frequent hand-washing, using hand sanitizers, staying away from sick people, avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth, and cleaning commonly touched surfaces.
Flu vaccines are available at doctors offices and pharmacies. Those without medical insurance can go to a county public health center to get vaccinated. A list of locations is available at www.sdiz.org or by calling 211.