More flu deaths reported in San Diego; emergency room visits drop

From San Diego County Health Department Reports

Five more influenza deaths were reported last week, the County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) announced March 6. HHSA also reported a decline in the percentage of emergency department patients with influenza-like-illness, as well as in the number of lab-confirmed flu cases.

Based on the latest Influenza Watch report, covering the week ending March 2, 2013, HHSA reported the following:

Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 273

Influenza-like-illness at emergency departments during the week: 4 percent (9 percent last week)

Total influenza deaths to date: 48

Total lab-confirmed influenza cases to date: 4,798

Two people died during the reporting week. The other three died earlier in February.

The 48 flu-related deaths this season are the second highest on record. San Diegans who have died have ranged in age from 37 to 99 years and all but one had underlying medical conditions. Fifty-eight deaths were reported during the 2009-2010 flu season.

“Reports of influenza deaths typically come after influenza activity has peaked,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer.

“We are seeing a higher number of influenza deaths because a more severe strain of influenza—H3N2—has been circulating this season,” said Wooten, adding that people should continue to get vaccinated and take preventive measures.

Influenza commonly affects the elderly, but pregnant women, infants, and people with chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or a compromised immune system are also at higher risk for complications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months or older, who is not allergic to it, should get a flu vaccine every year. The vaccine is safe, effective, and available at many locations in the county. It takes about two weeks for immunity to develop after getting vaccinated.

The seasonal flu vaccine offers protection against Influenza A H3N2, Pandemic H1N1-like, and Influenza B strains. It is well matched for the viruses that are circulating, and has been determined by the CDC to be 62% effective.

The vaccine is available throughout San Diego County at doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies. County public health centers have flu vaccine available for children and adults with no medical insurance. For a list of locations, visit

or call 2-1-1.

In addition to getting the vaccine, there are other precautions people can take to avoid getting sick: wash your hands thoroughly and often, use hand sanitizers, stay away from sick people, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth and clean commonly touched surfaces. If you are sick, stay home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and avoid contact with others.