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Flu striking young San Diegans this season

Posted: 8:24 AM, Mar 25, 2016
Updated: 2016-03-25 18:11:08Z
SAN DIEGO -- Nine people died from the flu last week in San Diego County and two of them were under the age of 65.
 
A 35 year-old-woman and a 16-year-old girl succumbed to the illness. It marked the first time since 2013 a child in San Diego County has died of the flu. 
 
Many young adults and teens are finding themselves sicker than in season past. It is hitting even the most health conscious San Diegans, like 27-year-old Carson Rutledge.
 
"I was just really tired and had a pretty bad cough, just sort of an all-around general malaise and sick feeling," he said.
 
The flu was a diagnosis Rutledge, a pediatric dentist, didn't expect, especially given how he spends his spare time. He’s at the gym training for physique competitions, and in the kitchen prepping healthy meals.
 
“I'm working out, usually working out five days a week, eating very healthy throughout the week. I was a little surprised to come down with the flu out of the blue like that." 
 
Typically babies and the elderly are the flu's prime targets. However, that's not the case this year. 
 
"In 2009 when we had the influenza pandemic, it was a new or novel virus, and no one had been exposed to it," explained Dr. Wilma Wooten, a public health officer for the county. 
 
According to Wooten, in situations when you have a pandemic with a new virus, younger people are more at risk because the virus overwhelms an immune system that has never seen it before. Wooten says H1N1 is no longer novel. Anyone who has gotten the flu vaccine in the past few years has been exposed to it.
 
"If they have not had the flu vaccine, then the virus potentially could be new to them," she said.
 
That could explain why young adults and teens are suffering so much this season: they're the exact group who thinks they do not need to be vaccinated.
 
"They feel, 'oh, I don't need to get a flu vaccine.’ But that's incorrect thinking. The CDC recommends everyone six months of age and older should get an influenza vaccination.”
 
Dr. Rutledge has already made up his mind about 2017. 
 
"I think, after this, I'm probably going to look into getting the vaccine next year."
 
It's not too late to get vaccinated and protect yourself for the remainder of this flu season.