SAN DIEGO — Influenza-related deaths in the region rose to 11 last week and more than 1,600 flu cases were reported, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced Wednesday.

The latest flu fatality is a 51-year-old woman from North County who died from influenza A on Dec. 31, 2019. She had underlying medical conditions.

To date, 11 influenza deaths have been reported locally, the same number as this time last year.

The number of lab-confirmed flu cases jumped again last week, when 1,623 cases were reported, 260 more than the previous week when 1,363 flu cases were recorded.

“Given the high number of cases, influenza activity in the region continues to be widespread, just like it is in other parts of the nation,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “The best protection against the flu is getting vaccinated. This year’s flu vaccine matches the viruses circulating this season.”

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When to Seek Medical Help

Influenza-like illnesses at local emergency departments also rose to 9% last week, compared to 8% the prior week.

People with influenza-like symptoms are crowding local emergency departments and taxing some hospitals.

County health officials are encouraging people who are sick to first contact their health care provider by telephone or arrange an urgent appointment. 

You should go to an emergency department when you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or abdominal pain
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that appear to get better, but then return with a fever and worse cough

The County Health and Human Services Agency publishes the Influenza Watch weekly report, which tracks key flu indicators and summarizes influenza surveillance in the region.

For the week ending Jan. 4, 2020, the report shows the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 9% of all visits (compared to 8% the previous week)
  • Total influenza deaths to date: 11 (compared to 11 at this time last season)
  • Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 5,434 (compared to 2,133 last season)

How to Prevent the Flu

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every year. It takes about two weeks for immunity to develop.

Flu 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
  • Pregnant women
  • People aged 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 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 211 San Diego.