SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A half-dozen influenza-related deaths were confirmed last week in San Diego County, bringing the number of fatalities so far this flu season to 63, compared to 30 at this time last year, the Health and Human Services Agency reported today.
The ages of the patients ranged from 55 to 84, and all had underlying medical conditions, according to the HHSA. The total number of reported influenza cases increased for the first time in several weeks, with 1,637 reported last week.
The previous week saw 1,548 lab-confirmed cases. To date, San Diego County has had 16,706 cases of influenza. "Influenza activity is unpredictable, and weekly case totals could go up and down during the season,'' said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer.
"It's important that people continue getting vaccinated since influenza could last through April and even May.'' Last flu season saw 4,848 cases by this time and 9,655 in total.
County health officials are encouraging people who are sick to first contact their health care provider by telephone or arrange an urgent appointment, but to go to an emergency department if they have any of the following symptoms:
-- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath;
-- chest pain or abdominal pain;
-- sudden dizziness;
-- severe or persistent vomiting; or
-- flu-like symptoms that appear to get better, but then return with a fever and worse cough.
County health officials and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly advise the annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older, especially in demographics with a heightened risk of serious complications, such as pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and lung disease, and people age 65 or older.
Residents can take precautions against contracting the virus by frequent hand washing, cleaning commonly touched surfaces, avoiding contact with sick people, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
The flu vaccine is available at local doctors' offices, retail pharmacies and the county's public health centers. A full list of locations offering flu shots can be found at the county's immunization website, sdiz.org, or by calling 211 for the county's health hotline.