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Flu Season Death Toll Rises To 43 In San Diego County

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Another 14 people in the San Diego region died of influenza-related causes last week, bringing the "flu season" toll to 43, the county Health and Human Services Agency reported Thursday.

Each of the victims have had underlying medical conditions, and most were elderly. The youngest person to die of the flu was 51 years old, according to the HHSA.

The number of fatalities roughly matches the pace of last year, when 70 died — the highest number since the agency began keeping records.

More than 4,700 local cases have been confirmed through laboratory testing, compared to about 3,100 at this time in 2014.

"Between late January and early February is typically the peak period of the local flu season," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "It's important that people continue to take precautionary measures to avoid getting sick, including getting vaccinated."

County health officials continue to encourage San Diegans to contact their doctor immediately if they start to develop flu-like symptoms so that they can be evaluated for antiviral drugs, which work best if given within 48 hours after symptoms appear.

Antiviral drugs are recommended for high-risk groups, including those with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and lung disease, even if symptoms are under control; pregnant women; people 65 years and older; and people who live with or care for others who are at higher risk, according to the HHSA.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu shots annually for everyone who is 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 a 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. Those without medical insurance can go to a county public health center to get vaccinated. A list of locations is available at www.sdiz.org or by calling 211.

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