The annual "flu season" continues to be off to a slow start in the San Diego area, with the number of confirmed cases running below last year's rate, county health officials said Wednesday.
So far, 202 cases of influenza have been confirmed by laboratory testing, compared to 268 at this time in 2014, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency. Over the past week, 23 cases were reported, compared to 35 the prior week.
Two previously reported fatalities occurred in elderly San Diegans who were already ailing, according to the HHSA.
Health officials said flu season generally picks up in January and February. They encouraged residents to get flu shots, because the vaccine usually needs two weeks to take effect.
"There are a lot of myths about the flu vaccine that are not true," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer. "The best way to protect yourself, and those around you, against the flu is to get vaccinated."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu shots annually for everyone who is at least 6 months old. Vaccination is more important for people with weakened immune systems, as well as those who are pregnant, elderly or live with or care for others at high risk.
Other suggestions for staying healthy include frequent hand-washing, using hand sanitizers, staying away from sick people, avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth and cleaning commonly touched surfaces.
Flu vaccines are available at doctors offices and pharmacies. Those without medical insurance can go to a county public health center to get vaccinated. A list of locations is available at www.sdiz.org or by calling 211.