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 80 and more than last flu season's entire toll, the county Health and Human Services Agency reported today.
Last season had 77 total deaths and just 44 at this time of the year. All but three of the people who have died from influenza this season had underlying medical conditions, the HHSA said.
Despite the number of deaths, the total number of reported influenza cases decreased again last week to 784, 431 fewer cases than the previous week. To date, San Diego County has had 18,696 cases.
"It's very unfortunate but influenza deaths do occur every flu season,'' said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "It's important for people to get vaccinated since the flu season is not over yet.''
Last flu season saw 6,103 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;
-- 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.