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San Diego health officials warn of severe flu season

It’s mid-October, and cold and flu season is bearing down on San Diego residents.

The past couple of years have been mild for colds and flus, thanks in part to social distancing and mask wearing to protect against COVID-19. But, now, many of those precautions have gone by the wayside.

Dr. Cameron Kaiser of the San Diego County Health Department said that was creating some challenging scenarios at local schools.

“We’re looking at a reported outbreak of flu-like illness at Patrick Henry High School — largely fever, cough, respiratory symptoms. And we're also investigating some similar reports at Del Norte High School. While this is preliminary, a number of them are already testing positive for Influenza A,” he said.

Vanessa Alvarado is the mother of two students at Patrick Henry High School, where hundreds of high schoolers have been out sick this week.

“We’ve had my youngest in bed since Sunday morning. And it was almost immediately after the homecoming dance. She had a 103 fever — she slept the entire day Sunday,” Alvarado told KPBS. “My oldest was sick for about two days, so a little less affected.”

The issue isn't limited to Patrick Henry High School. The Poway Unified School District also has large numbers of students under the weather.

Christine Paik is the chief communications officer for the district.

“One of our schools, Del Norte, seems to be particularly impacted. We don't know for 100% certain that it's all flu, but we do know there are many students out — about 400 yesterday and the day before — with flu-like symptoms,” she said.

Paik said that was more than three times the usual number of absences for the school of just over 2,500 students.

Kaiser said the reason many students were sick could be a mixture of a bad flu season and other illnesses.

“Flu A is the harder hitter of the two major types of flu we deal with annually. And we're already seeing an early rise in flu and other kinds of respiratory viruses in the county,” he said. “It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if we hear more of these reported outbreaks in other places, and not just high schools either. ”

So far, there have been more than 1,000 confirmed flu cases in the county since July. There were only 200 for the same period in 2021.

Kaiser urged San Diegans to get their flu shots as soon as possible in order to combat this year’s early and fast-spreading flu.

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