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Flu Death Toll Continues to Rise in County

Officials Encourage Use of Antivirals

San Diego County CA— Ten more local influenza deaths were reported last week, bringing this season’s total to 29, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced today.

Given the high number of influenza deaths and lab-confirmed cases, County health officials are encouraging the public to contact their doctor immediately if they start to develop flu-like symptoms so that they can be evaluated for antiviral drug treatment.

“Antiviral drugs work best if given within 48 hours after symptoms appear,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H, County public health officer. “It is especially important that people at higher risk of developing complications from the flu get antiviral drugs right away to treat their illness.”

Antiviral drugs are recommended for high-risk groups, including:

  • People with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and lung disease, even if your symptoms are under control
  • Pregnant women
  • People 65 years and older
  • People who live with or care for others who are at higher risk

The ages of those who have died this season range from 67 to 99 years and all had underlying medical conditions.

Influenza claimed the lives of 70 San Diegans during the 2013-2014 season, and there were 32 deaths at this time last year. There were 65 deaths during 2012-2013. These were the deadliest flu seasons since HHSA began tracking the disease.

For the week ending January 31, 2015, the HHSA Influenza Watch report shows the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 8 percent of all visits (down from 11 percent the previous week)
  • Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 816 (up from 706 the previous week)
  • Total influenza deaths to date: 29 (compared to 32 last season)
  • Total lab-confirmed influenza cases to date: 3,976 (compared to 2,662 last season)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine every year. The vaccine is safe and effective. It takes two weeks for immunity to develop after receiving the vaccine.

The CDC has indicated this year’s vaccine is not as good a match for one of the strains, but it is very well matched for the other strains. Partial protection is better than no protection and having the vaccine helps prevent severe illness and hospitalizations.