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Flu season still mild, but cases on the rise, county health says

FLU SHOT 2021 11 01.jpg
Matthew Bowler
Drive-thru flu shot clinic at Sharp HealthCare Coronado hospital, Nov. 1, 2021.

While this influenza season has been mild compared to past seasons, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency Wednesday confirmed cases have been on the rise for the last two weeks.

A total of 60 lab-confirmed influenza cases were reported in San Diego County the week ending Saturday, up three from the 57 infections reported the week before and 29 more than the week prior.

A total of 1,721 flu cases were reported through Saturday, more than double the 722 reported at the same time last year. The past two influenza seasons have been much milder than the prior five-year average when 10,240 cases had been reported at this time.

"This season, we're seeing more San Diegans get sick from influenza compared to last year which was an even milder flu season," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. "However, people should continue taking precautions to avoid getting and spreading influenza. San Diegans should get a flu shot, wash their hands regularly and stay home when sick."

According to the HHSA, in the past week, emergency department visits for influenza-like illness were 2% of all visits, same as the previous week.

A total of four influenza-related deaths have been reported so far this season.

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.

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 sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/hhsa/programs/phs/immunization_branch/Vaccine_Pr eventable_Diseases/Seasonal_Influenza/Flu_Vaccine_Locations.html or call 211.

In addition to getting vaccinated, health officials said people should:

  • 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.

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