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San Diego County records first influenza death of the season

A National City paramedic greets people waiting for free flu shots outside Fire Station 34 on Sept. 22, 2020.
Jacob Aere
A National City paramedic greets people waiting for free flu shots outside Fire Station 34 on Sept. 22, 2020.

San Diego County reported its first influenza death of the season, a 42-year-old man from the North Central region of the county, the Health and Human Services Agency announced Wednesday.

The man died on Dec. 9, but his cause of death was only confirmed in the last few days. He had underlying medical conditions and had not been vaccinated against influenza, the HHSA said. He tested negative for COVID-19.

Additionally, cases of the flu increased again over the previous week, with 192 lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week ending Saturday. This compares to 188 flu infections the week prior.


"Vaccination is the best defense we have against the flu," said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, county deputy public health officer. "Flu season generally peaks between December and February, and this season's first flu death reminds us that San Diegans who have not gotten immunized should do it now to protect themselves from becoming ill."

The county's cumulative case numbers — 1,052 — are significantly more than last year, when 54 were reported at this time. However, the numbers for this season are far below the five-year average for this week — 1,699.

Every Wednesday during flu season, the Health and Human Services Agency publishes the Influenza Watch weekly report, which tracks key flu indicators and summarizes influenza surveillance in the region.

For the week ending Saturday, the agency reported that emergency department visits for influenza-like illness were 5% of all visits, up from 4% the previous week.

RELATED: San Diego County flu cases increase, but below five-year average


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every year. People with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, people age 65 and older and people who live with or care for others who are at higher risk are all more likely to get seriously sick from the flu.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination to develop protection against the virus.

The vaccine is available at doctors' offices and retail pharmacies and is covered by medical insurance. People with no health care coverage can get vaccinated at one of the county's six public health centers or a local community clinic.

To find the nearest location, visit the county's Flu Vaccine Locations page at or call 211.

In addition to getting vaccinated, health officials said people should also do the following:

— wash hands thoroughly and often;

— use hand sanitizers;

— avoid sick people;

— avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth;

— clean commonly touched surfaces; and

— if sick, stay home and avoid contact with others.

Last season, 848 influenza cases were reported in San Diego County, including two deaths. In 2019, a total of 108 San Diegans died from influenza and more than 20,700 flu cases were reported.