Influenza-Related Deaths Climb to 74 in San Diego County

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - After 11 fatalities were reported in the last two weeks, the total influenza-related death toll in San Diego County has risen to 74 this flu season, the Health and Human Services Agency reported today.

One of the deaths was a 26-year-old woman from south San Diego County who died Feb. 13. Only two of the reported deaths occurred in the last week and all had underlying medical conditions, according to the HHSA.

Despite the number of deaths, the total number of reported influenza cases decreased last week to 1,232. To date, San Diego County has had 17,935 cases.

``Influenza can be deadly, especially for those with existing chronic health conditions,'' said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. ``Getting a flu shot is the best way to prevent from getting sick.''

Last flu season saw 5,486 cases by this time and 9,655 in total, with 41 influenza-related deaths.

County health officials are encouraging people who are sick to first contact their healthcare provider by telephone or arrange an urgent appointment, but to go to an emergency department if they have any of the following symptoms:

-- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath;

-- chest pain or abdominal pain;

-- sudden dizziness;

-- confusion;

-- severe or persistent vomiting; or

-- flu-like symptoms that appear to get better, but then return with a fever and worse cough.

County health officials and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly advise the annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older, especially in demographics with a heightened risk of serious complications, such as pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and lung disease, and people age 65 or older.

Residents can take precautions against contracting the virus by frequent hand-washing, cleaning commonly touched surfaces, avoiding contact with sick people and avoiding touching one's eyes, nose and mouth.

The flu vaccine is available at local doctors' offices, retail pharmacies and the county's public health centers. A full list of locations offering flu shots can be found at the county's immunization website,, or by calling 211 for the county's health hotline.

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