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San Diego flu deaths continue to spike, health officials caution activity remains elevated

Board to consider emergency declaration over flu
Posted at 12:35 PM, Mar 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-20 15:35:14-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- San Diego County health officials announced Wednesday that three more people died from complications from the flu bringing the county's death toll this season to 49.

The deceased were described as an 84-year-old man and a 62-year-old woman from San Diego, and a 50-year-old woman from East County, according to County of San Diego Communications Office spokesperson Jose A. Alvarez.

All three had underlying medical conditions.

“Influenza activity in the region is still elevated. People should continue taking precautions to avoid getting sick,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “The flu vaccine is safe and effective.”

This season's death toll is far lower than last season. 307 San Diegans died from complications from the flu through this time last year.

The number of people with influenza-like symptoms who showed up at local emergency departments went up one percentage point last week, reaching 6 percent again.

The flu claimed the county's first young victim Feb. 20. A 14-year-old girl became the first child to die from influenza this season in San Diego. The girl had an underlying health condition, according to the County Health and Human Services Agency. She had contracted influenza A, also known as H1N1, the county says, and had not received this season's flu vaccine.

The majority of cases have been of the H1N1 virus, the county says, which typically affects younger and middle-aged adults because they have not been exposed as much as older adults.

County health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly advise the annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older, especially demographics with a heightened risk of serious complications, such as pregnant women, people older than 65 and people with chronic conditions.

"Due to continued elevated influenza activity in the county, Wooten is extending—until April 30—the order for unvaccinated health care personnel to wear a mask while they’re in patient care areas. If influenza activity remains elevated, a further extension may be required," Alvarez said.

For the week ending March 16, 2019, the Influenza Watch report shows the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 6 percent of all visits (compared to 5 percent as the previous week).
  • Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 508 (compared to 574 the previous week).
  • Total influenza deaths to date: 49 (compared to 307 at this time last season).
  • Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 7,184 (compared to 19,442 at this time last season).