By José A. Álvarez, County of San Diego Communications Office
Even though fewer flu cases are being reported this season compared to last, the County Health and Human Services Agency is reminding San Diegans to get vaccinated to avoid getting sick.
A total of 189 lab-confirmed flu cases have been reported this season, less than half the 441 cases that had been reported at the same time last year.
“While fewer people have been sick with the flu this year, we never know how severe a season is really going to be,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “If you have not done it, get your flu shot now since the season could last through April and even May.”
According to Wooten, influenza cases typically increase during the holidays. That is because when people travel and gather in groups, they make it easier for the flu to spread.
“Holiday gatherings and celebrations bring people together in large groups raising the possibility of people getting sick and making others ill,” Wooten said. “Get a flu shot before the flu starts to spread and so that you are protected during the holidays.”
Last season, 342 people in the region died from complications from the flu, 255 more than the previous season and the highest total since the County began tracking flu deaths nearly 20 years ago. The majority of those who died were over the age of 65 and had underlying medical conditions. Two children also died of flu last year.
One of the reasons for the high number of deaths was that the region and the country experienced a severe flu season. In addition, the high number of deaths identified locally was also due to the County’s broad surveillance and use of detailed reporting systems.
The County Health and Human Services Agency publishes the weekly Influenza Watch report, which tracks key flu indicators and summarizes influenza surveillance in the region.
For the week ending November 10, 2018, the Influenza Watch report shows the following:
•Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 3 percent of all visits (compared to 2 percent the previous week)
•Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 33 (compared to 27 the previous week)
•Total influenza deaths to date: 1 (compared 3 at this time last season)
•Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 189 (compared to 441 last season)
How to Prevent the Flu
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every year. The vaccine is safe and effective. It takes two weeks for immunity to develop.
Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk of developing serious complications from influenza. They include:
•People with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and lung disease, even if symptoms are under control
•People 65 years and older
•People who live with or care for others who are at higher risk
In addition to getting vaccinated, people should also do the following to avoid getting sick:
•Wash hands thoroughly and often
•Use hand sanitizers
•Stay away from sick people
•Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
•Clean commonly touched surfaces
•If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others
The flu vaccine is available at doctors’ offices, community clinics, and retail pharmacies. If you don’t have medical insurance, you can go to a County public health center to get vaccinated. For a list of locations, visit www.sdiz.org or call 2-1-1.
José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office