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San Diego flu deaths increase to 86, as season appears to ease

Influenza season in full swing as flu activity increases across U.S.: See how your region compares
Posted at 5:11 PM, Mar 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-11 20:14:11-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - As the San Diego region prepares for possible cases of novel coronavirus, the Health and Human Services Agency reported Wednesday that even with six influenza-related deaths recorded last week, the flu season appears to be winding down.

A total of 86 San Diego County residents have died from the flu so far this season, and of the half dozen deaths recorded last week, only one actually happened last week. All of the people who died had underlying medical conditions.

That total is more than last flu season's entire toll.

As of this time last year, the county had recorded 46 flu deaths. Last season's deaths totaled 77.

"Influenza appears to be declining, but people should continue getting vaccinated as the flu could last until April or May," said said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "The vaccine is safe and effective and the best tool we have to prevent influenza."

Last week, Chairman Greg Cox, County Board of Supervisors, recommended everyone get a flu vaccine to protect themselves and their family, and reduce the potential strain on the healthcare system, which may be impacted by novel coronovirus concerns.

There have been a handful of novel coronavirus cases in San Diego County and as of yet no deaths.

"It's important for everyone to educate themselves and their family and be prepared ...," Cox said. "It's also important for people not to panic as the risk for this new virus and the disease that it causes continues to be low."

All but three of the people who have died from influenza this season had underlying medical conditions, according to the HHSA, which reported that the total number of reported cases decreased again last week to 637 -- 135 fewer cases than the previous week. To date, San Diego County has had 19,317 cases.

Last flu season saw 6,675 cases by this time and 9,655 in total.

County health officials are encouraging people who are sick to first contact their healthcare 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;

-- confusion;

-- 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 one's 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.