Flu Cases, Deaths Down Dramatically In San Diego
San Diego County is little more than halfway through the annual flu season and it has been an unusual one, with sharp declines in cases and deaths from previous years.
"I’ve been here for 21 years now and I have never seen it this low," said Kaiser San Diego Assistant Medical Director Dr. William Tseng. "I don’t believe I’ve ever had a year where there has been no death by this time."
Through the middle of January, just 662 confirmed cases of the flu have been reported in San Diego County, with no deaths. During this same time last year there were 10,000 cases and 32 deaths. For months, officials have been warning of a "twindemic" — hospitals overrun by flu and coronavirus patients.
"So we got on this very early on because we knew the combination of flu and COVID-19 would be a killer. So we've gotten over 50% of our population vaccinated (for influenza) already," said Tseng.
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Tseng said while initial symptoms are similar, for hospitals there’s no confusing coronavirus cases with the flu.
"From the test perspective there is absolutely no argument — it’s completely different," he said.
At Kaiser San Diego, when patients are having respiratory problems they are given tests for both the flu and coronavirus.
"We’ve seen even if they are positive for COVID-19 they are negative for the influenza," Tseng said.
The CDC is reporting influenza activity nationwide is unusually low, and health officials say that is because the same measures used to contain coronavirus, staying isolated, wearing masks and social distancing, will also curb the flu.
"We’re doing this to protect people from COVID-19. But the side effect of that, or the benefit of that, is we also drop down any type of transmissible disease," Tseng said.
Tseng said protective measures are extra important right now with a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus in San Diego. He does worry that with the regional stay at home order and it's restrictions lifted we may see a rise in flu and coronavirus cases.
Health officials recommend everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccination.