SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — The number of flu cases continues to skyrocket in San Diego County.
Health officials are reporting thousands of cases so far, as local urgent care centers and emergency rooms are seeing a huge jump in patients with flu symptoms.
14-year-old Morgan Fay was wearing a mask inside Kaiser Permanente in La Mesa as the urgent care unit continued to see a surge of patients with the flu on Thursday.
"We just picked one up at the front [and] we saw everyone else wearing them" said Morgan. "There's so many people coughing. I don't really want to get it."
In San Diego the number of flu cases skyrocketed last week, bringing the total so far, this year to more than 3,800.
Last year at this time, the number was at about 600.
On Wednesday, Grossmont Hospital set up a tent because of an overflow of flu patients.
And county health officials aren't expecting a slowdown anytime soon.
"Unfortunately, when we see a spike in cases we do, in the next couple weeks, see a spike in deaths," said Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Sayone Thihalolipavan.
11 people have died countywide; they range in age from 58 years old to 100.
The health department says all suffered from other underlying medical conditions.
Dr. Shreyh Chandra say one reason for the surge in numbers is flu season started earlier than usual.
"We first started seeing influenza in September, which is actually the same time the vaccine comes out," said Dr. Chandra from Kaiser Permanente.
Though the most vulnerable are the elderly and children, Dr. Chandra warns with this strain of the virus, even young healthy people need to be careful.
"The chance of even our healthy patients going on to develop more serious disease is much higher this year," said Dr. Chandra.
Experts say the best way to protect yourself is get a flu shot; because even if you get the vaccine and still get sick, the symptoms and length of time you are ill won't be as severe.
"We think of flu vaccine as a seatbelt," said Dr. Chandra. "Of everybody who gets into car - most think we're not going to get into an accident but we still put on seatbelt. Even if you think you're not going to get influenza, [you] still need to get the vaccine."