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San Diego Flu Season records First Death

The first person to die from influenza in the San Diego region during this "flu season" was a 51-year-old man who suffered from an existing medical condition, the county's Health and Human Services Agency reported Wednesday.

The unidentified man, who died last Thursday, tested positive for Influenza A, according to the HHSA.

"While influenza deaths are very unfortunate, they are not uncommon," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "Influenza can be a serious and deadly disease. That is why it is strongly recommended that people get the vaccine."

The agency said 65 people died in San Diego County during last year's flu season.

An exponential increase in the number of flu cases diagnosed locally continued last week, with 361 cases reported, according to the HHSA. That is more than the total number of cases -- 357 -- diagnosed since the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1.

The prior week, the number of new cases was 154, which was double that of the week before that, the HHSA reported. The total of confirmed flu cases now stands at 716, according to the agency.

The predominant virus circulating nationally so far is Pandemic H1N1. In San Diego, about eight out of 10 cases have been determined to be Pandemic H1N1.

The current flu vaccine offers protection against Pandemic H1N1, as well as Influenza A H3N2 and Influenza B strains. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that the vaccines are well-matched for the currently circulating viruses.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine every year. The vaccine is especially important for people who are at higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu, including people with certain medical conditions, pregnant women, and people 65 years and older.

"The best protection against the flu is to get vaccinated," Wooten said. "It is not too late to be immunized."

People can also avoid the flu by washing hands thoroughly and often; using hand sanitizers; staying away from sick people; refrain from touching the eyes, nose, and mouth; cleaning commonly touched surfaces; and if sick, staying home and avoiding contact with others.

The vaccine is available throughout San Diego County at doctors' offices and retail pharmacies.

County public health centers have the flu vaccine available for children and adults with no medical insurance. A list of locations is available online at www.sdiz.org, or calling 2-1-1.

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