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San Diego Flu Cases Double From Last Year

A person receives a flu shot in this undated photo.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
A person receives a flu shot in this undated photo.
San Diego Flu Cases Double From Last Year
San Diego Flu Cases Double From Last Year GUEST: Dr. Wilma Wooten, public health officer, San Diego County

If you needed an extra reason to get a flu shot this season, we've got one. San Diego County is reporting more than double the number of flu cases over this time last year. We have not even reached the peak of our flu season. The County is reporting the number of lab confirmed influenza cases in San Diego as 589 compared to 247 at this time last year. Joining me is Dr. Wilma Wooten. She is San Diego County public health officer. Welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. The uptick in those numbers sound significant. Do we know of any reason why flu seems to be hitting the County hard this season? The number of our detections are higher than last year. They are still within the expected level of detections. The first important point that people should know is that influenza is not a reportable disease. We have a very good working relationship with our medical community here in San Diego so we encourage them to reap what. Also, we have sentinel sites were locations where when individuals go in, these are clinics. People go in with influenza like illness which is a temperature of 100.4, cough or a sore throat. There is a specific protocol where specimens are collected and they are sent to our public health lab so that we can detect what viruses are circulating. With those coming in with viral detections from the general public, it still is within expected levels. We are not alarmed by those numbers. Is there any news coming in that this flu season is particularly hard in the rest of the country? The CDC does report weekly, as do we on what the situation for influenza is across the country. They actually have a map. You can visit their website and look at for each state what the influenza activity is. For California, it is in the low activity. We certainly expect that to change as the flu season progresses. Influenza does not usually peak in San Diego until early in the following year. It changes from year to year. When I first started to work for the county in 2002, it peaked the last two weeks of December. Last year, it was probably the latest peak in the last 15 years. That is what is so consistent about influenza. It is unpredictable. How are the people most at risk? When we talk about age, the very old and very young have the greatest risk publications. When we talk about clinical illnesses, those individuals with chronic diseases like heart disease, asthma, diabetes, obesity or individuals with compromised immune systems. HIV, cancer or other conditions can compromise your immune system. Those are the types of conditions that predisposes an individual to having more complications from influenza if they were to be infected. We are seeing in San Diego County and increase in the number of people who have the flu who are going to emergency rooms. From the last week's report to this week, it went from 2% to 4%. That means all of the emergency department visits for this last report for the week ending on this last Saturday, 4% of the total emergency department visits were due to influenza like illness. There are other conditions that can cause influenza like illnesses that are circulating at this time of the year as well. This is a great indicator of what is going on out there. It helps us to define the severity of our influenza season from year to year. Even if you are not at high risk, the county is urging everyone to get a flu shot. Absolutely. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC recommends that everyone six months of age and older should have an influenza vaccination annually. Is there any where people can go to get a flu shot for free or almost no cost? Our public health centers. There are six in each of the six regions and another location, our VIP vaccination clinic in Southeast San Diego. You can go to our County's website and find out those locations. In the meantime, immunity kicks in after you get a shot in about two weeks time. If you have not had a shot or that immunity has not kicked in yet, are there any practical hygienic tips that people can follow to try to avoid getting sick? The first thing is to wash your hands frequently and often. The second is to ensure that when you are out in the community touching objects, don't touch your face, your eyes, nose and mouth. If you have germs on your hands, you can transmit them to yourself if you do that. Washing your hands with soap and water, and if that is not available, use hand sanitizer. There have been concerns in the past about how well the flu shot is treating this particular strain of the flu. How is it doing this year? So far, the CDC is reporting that the vaccine is well matched to the circulating influenza viruses that are in our commute. Are you concerned that this year may be quite a bad flu year in San Diego? You can never predict what the flu season will look like. So far, things are progressing -- we aren't seeing any major indicators. It is too early to tell. We really need to watch the indicators as the flu season progresses and then we will be able to determine what type of flu season we have typically, we don't know what type of flu season we have until the flu season is actually over or we are in the middle of the. We have not reached the peak yet. You want to stop it before it gets back. -- Bad. The most important thing you can do is get your flu shot. If you have not already gotten your vaccinations, it is not too late. You can still do it. Influenza circulates year-round but the predominant period is between October and the latter part of March or April. I have been speaking with Dr. Wilma Wooten , San Diego County public health officer. Thank you so much.

The number of San Diegans coming down with influenza continues to be more than double the cases as of this time last year, and an additional person has died of the illness, the county Health and Human Services Agency announced Wednesday.

The number of cases has been growing each week for the past two months, according to the agency.

Last week, 149 cases were confirmed by laboratory testing, one greater than the week before. So far in this "flu season," 589 illnesses have been reported, compared to 247 at this point last year.


"The flu is anticipated to continue to spread until the peak, which could be in February," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "Avoid getting sick. Get a flu shot now."

The agency reported that an 87-year-old woman died of flu-related complications on Dec. 19. That brings the season's toll to four people — all of them older and already dealing with medical problems — compared to three in the same period last year.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu shots annually for everyone at least 6 months old. Vaccination is more important for people with weakened immune systems, as well as those who are pregnant, elderly or live with or care for others at high risk.

Other suggestions for staying healthy include frequent hand-washing, using hand sanitizers, staying away from sick people, avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth, and cleaning commonly touched surfaces.

Flu vaccines are available at doctors' offices and pharmacies. People without medical insurance can go to a county public health center to get vaccinated. A list of locations is available at or by calling 211.