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San Diego Flu Is Now The Second Deadliest On Record

Colorized influenza A virus.
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Above: Colorized influenza A virus.

The current "flu season" in San Diego County is now the second-deadliest on record, after 11 more influenza fatalities were recorded last week, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency.

The death toll is now 30, second only to the 58 who passed away during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009-10, according to the HHSA. All but one of the victims had an underlying medical condition, the agency said.

The HHSA also reported 916 new diagnosed cases of influenza, bringing the seasonal total to 2,957.

"Influenza deaths are unfortunate, but they serve to remind us that people should get vaccinated," said Dr. Eric McDonald, the county's deputy public health officer. "Although more people become ill with the flu in the winter months, the disease can be contracted at anytime during the year, so it is never too late for a flu shot."

Influenza is affecting the elderly much more this season, but pregnant women, infants and people with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or compromised immune systems are also at higher risk for complications.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommend that everyone 6 months and older who is not allergic get a flu vaccine every year. It takes about two weeks for immunity to develop after getting the shot.

The county said 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.

McDonald said most people who become ill will not need medical attention and should recuperate at home to avoid exposing others. Individuals with underlying medical conditions and those with symptoms that do not improve or that worsen should seek medical attention from their doctors or urgent care providers, according to the HHSA.

The agency advises flu patients not to go to hospitals so that emergency departments don't become overwhelmed.

To avoid catching the flu, people should wash their hands thoroughly and often, use hand sanitizers, stay away from sick people, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth and clean commonly touched surfaces, according to the HHSA. Those who get sick should stay home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and avoid contact with others, the HHSA said.

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