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Flu Cases Spike Countywide, 2 More Flu-Related Deaths Reported, Top San Diego Events

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County health officials have now confirmed 3,838 flu cases since July 1, when tracking for this flu season began. Two more residents died due to flu complications last week while lab-confirmed flu cases spiked to nearly 1,400. And, mark your calendars: here’s what to do in San Diego this January. Tony-Award winning musical, “Dear Evan Hansen” is coming to San Diego this month along with legendary metal band Tool and singer/songwriter King Princess.

Speaker 1: 00:00 How health officials are tackling a rise in flu cases. And a sit down with the author of the one book, one San Diego selection for kids. I'm Jade Hindman. This is KPBS mid day edition. It's Friday, January 3rd. San Diego County is in the thick of flu season with nearly twice as many confirmed cases reported in the last week of December and two additional deaths. The latest numbers show. Many people are turning to emergency rooms with flu like symptoms. Dr. Eric McDonald is the medical director of epidemiology for San Diego counties, health and human services department, and he joins us now. Dr. McDonald, welcome.

Speaker 2: 00:49 Happy to be here.

Speaker 1: 00:51 So talk about how this flu season compares to the previous seasons. Uh, is flu activity stronger for this time in the season?

Speaker 2: 00:58 Well, I would say that a flu activity generally gets, um, much more intense in January and February in San Diego traditionally. So the increased number of cases at the end of December. And what we're seeing going into this week, I would say are typical for this time of the year.

Speaker 1: 01:16 And do you think the County has reached the peak of, of flu season yet?

Speaker 2: 01:20 Well, I always like saying you never know the peak until you're past it. Uh, and uh, it's certainly increasing. And, uh, the intensity this week, it seems to be at least equal to last week. But, um, if you compare it to last season, uh, you know, we didn't reach our peak until March. Um, and, uh, so we really just don't know

Speaker 1: 01:38 the latest numbers show 8% of local emergency patients showed flu like symptoms. Are those patients being hospitalized with the flu at all?

Speaker 2: 01:47 Well, uh, the percentage of people going to emergency departments for influenza like illnesses, the most sense, uh, of the, uh, uh, the 1718 season, uh, certainly more than all of last year. Uh, and interestingly, um, for the people who are being seen, probably less than 10% are being admitted to the hospital, which is a little, uh, less than would otherwise be expected. Every flu season is different. Uh, last year was sort of a long, uh, but, uh, not terribly intense season with influenza a H one N one being Provident predominant at the beginning and then age three and two towards the end this year. Uh, it's, I would say following a normal course, but what's unusual is that influence a B is causing the majority of the illness. We don't usually see that actually here in, uh, in San Diego or across the country. That's something we usually see at the end of the flu season rather than the beginning does disproportionately, uh, affect, uh, younger individuals.

Speaker 2: 02:43 And perhaps that's the reason that a lot of the people are, that are being seen in emergency departments are coming in sick but not so sick. They have to be admitted. It, it makes a younger people sick, but they don't tend to be, uh, as likely to be hospitalized or to die from it. It's because, uh, if you are exposed to influenza B as a young, younger person and then you live longer afterwards, uh, you tend to not to be quite as ill. So each influence of virus is, affects different, uh, age groups differently. And, uh, that's what's happening here at San Diego.

Speaker 1: 03:16 Right. And until we mentioned young people, but are there other groups of people who are more vulnerable to a this B strain?

Speaker 2: 03:23 Well, anybody with underlying medical conditions, uh, and anybody particularly with heart and lung disease, uh, could be a more vulnerable. Uh, this last week though was the first week for influenza a was slightly more than influenza B. So again, as the season develops, uh, what might happen is we might see more and more influenza a and that's a of concern really to everybody across the community.

Speaker 1: 03:45 Hmm. How effective is this year's flu vaccine against influenza a and B?

Speaker 2: 03:50 We won't really know. Uh, we'll get some preliminary information from CDC probably in about a month, but we don't really know until the season is over. Uh, some of the early indicators are that, uh, that there's a very good match between the vaccine and the H one N run strains that are in the community. There might be some of a mismatch for influence a B, but again, we won't really know until the season is really well underway.

Speaker 1: 04:16 Hmm. And which one is worse? Um, influenza a or influenza B?

Speaker 2: 04:20 Well, uh, if you have influenza a or B, it's bad for you.

Speaker 1: 04:24 Sure.

Speaker 2: 04:25 Uh, but, uh, uh, influence the a H three and two tends to be the one that is associated with increased numbers of hospitalizations and deaths. And that's what we saw. Uh, two years ago when over a 350, San Diego died of the flu.

Speaker 1: 04:40 How was the County health department monitoring flu activity around the County?

Speaker 2: 04:44 Uh, well, we monitor it in several ways. Uh, we have prehospital indicators of, uh, ambulances, uh, and the reasons people call ambulances. We have, um, uh, surveillance, uh, daily, uh, in, uh, the chief complaints people have when they present to the emergency department. And then as of October, first of last year, every single positive flu test is required to be reported to the health department. So we get a, uh, excellent, um, test reports from really all the different venues that are in the community, emergency departments, uh, hospitals, uh, clinics, et cetera.

Speaker 1: 05:21 You know, is it ever too late to get a flu shot?

Speaker 2: 05:23 It's never too late. In fact, if you have not gotten your flu shot, I would absolutely do. So. Now, uh, the season in San Diego can last well into the spring and, uh, you will be protected, uh, within two weeks of your, of your shot. And so, uh, absolutely I would get the shot. Now, if you haven't gotten it.

Speaker 1: 05:40 And the County puts out monthly reports on infectious diseases, aside from the flu, which other diseases are you most concerned about?

Speaker 2: 05:47 Well, again, in the, in the, uh, winter times, uh, other respiratory illnesses can cause a significant, uh, uh, illness and death in the community. Uh, respiratory virus or RSV is certainly a, an illness that's causing, uh, or a virus that's causing a lot of illness, especially in children. Uh, now, uh, and um, uh, certainly the, the um, uh, norovirus, which is, uh, can cause a, uh, gastrointestinal illness and other bacterial causes of gastroenteritis, uh, can be a, um, a little bit more common in this time of the year.

Speaker 1: 06:21 Hmm. I've been speaking with Dr. Eric McDonald, the medical director of epidemiology for San Diego counties health and human services department. Dr. McDonald, thank you so much for joining us.

Speaker 2: 06:31 Oh, my pleasure. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 06:41 In 1994, it's usually Miralis left everything she knew in Mexico and immigrated to the United States with our infant son today is usually has taken that experience of migration and turned it into a children's book that is brimming with color, texture and timely discussion about what it means to be an immigrant. Her book dreamers is part of KPBS is one book, one San Diego books for kids. Here's that interview with evening edition anchor Maya, troublesome.

Speaker 3: 07:10 Juicy. Miralis. Thank you so much for joining us today. Your book dreamers. It opens up a conversation about the individual immigrant experience and it Chronicles your bravery and the open heart that you had when you came into this country with a two year old baby. Tell us how the subject of immigration, which is typically quite an adult subject for children, how did you make it relevant for your audience of children? Most studies, the story

Speaker 4: 07:37 of many people who have come here also at the United States. And at the same time it was also my son's, his story because I came with a two month old baby when I immigrated into the United States. So I did try to do my job and my job is to make books for children and I know I need to know how to do those things. Does figuring out how to do those things is part of my, my everyday work. So I, I decided I was gonna make this a story in a way that I could, um, connect with children. So one of the things that I wanted more than more than just put my story out there so that children will know it is put up a mirror in front of children and make them realize that they're right, that I was giving myself to use my voice to tell a story is a similar rate that they had to tell their stories.

Speaker 4: 08:31 So more than anything what I was creating, that's what I want is to create an invitation so that children know that their stories don't have to be dramatic. They don't have to have car chases, they don't have to be like, like something that we imagine that will only be, um, worth putting in a book that any story is worth putting in a book. And it's worth telling. The children have many different with stories. We all have different ways to tell stories. You do it with your work, with your, uh, your voice, with your presence. Um, I do it by making books and there are children who will be able to tell their stories in many other different ways.

Speaker 1: 09:17 And every child sees something different in these illustrations. I read this book with my nine year old and my next question comes from her. Tell us about the symbolism of the butterflies.

Speaker 4: 09:28 Wow. The butterfly, the butterfly is something beautiful because Monarch butterflies are this, this tiny, delicate insects and yeah, they have one of the largest and most amazing migrations that animal can do. Um, so the Monarch butterfly is, um, is, is being used as a symbolism for migrants on every page. Exactly. Because he does signify how, uh, not only animals are the only ones who migrate, but also humans. Do you like, because I do, I do see how we, people also have supermodels in our lives that a lot of families and a lot of adults make those trips. So are their children and the new generations will become something even stronger than they were that we were. And we do come here to United States and we come North looking so that those generations will become those super monarchs that bring us on those presents. They, the children come here bringing us a lot of gifts. Um, so to me, the Monarch butterfly in this book signifies that his strength, that beauty and that work that the fringe generations of immigrants do so that the children can be constant in that we hadn't even yet imagine that they will be. What a beautiful way of telling that story. It's usually Miralis. Thank you so much for your time. It was my pleasure. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 11:06 You can find more about KPBS as one book, one San Diego program and is usually Morales's book dreamers on our website,

Speaker 1: 11:20 it's the first week of 2020 and if your calendar is already filling up this month, we've got a couple of more events you may want to add from a Tony award winning musical to concerts and dance. Nina Garin, former KPBS arts editor and current editor of Pacific magazine is here to tell us all about what's happening around San Diego this month. Nina, welcome. Hi, good to be here. Great to have you. As always. First up, the San Diego debut of the Broadway hit dear Evan Hansen, what is this show about? It's a complicated plot, but basically it's about an anxious teen boy, Evan.

Speaker 5: 11:54 Um, he doesn't have a lot of friends, so a therapist tells him to write letters to himself, which is where the dear Evan Hansen comes from. Um, this letter gets into kind of the wrong hands and there's a tragedy that connects Evan with this other family and that gives Evan the opportunity to reinvent himself. But all of that is sort of based on a lie. So the musical is about him, but also is he going to get found out and tell us about the San Diego ties to the musical. The musical was directed by Michael grave. Um, he is a UC S D graduate, but really well known in San Diego as the former artistic director of the LA Jolla Playhouse. And you just saw the show. What did you think of it? I really loved it. It has a lot of social media in it. So when you're in the audience you see kind of like Instagram, Facebook, video chat. So it's all worked into the plot, which is really unique. And the songs were written by passage and Paul who did Lala land and the greatest showman. So the songs are pretty catchy and really emotional. There's a lot of crying in the show, so just be prepared. Wow. All right. Dear Evan Hansen runs through January 12th at the civic center. There are also a number of big musical artists coming to town this month. First step after a long height is the metal band tool is back. Here's a little track off their new album fear inoculum

Speaker 6: 13:39 [inaudible]

Speaker 5: 13:40 and this is the group's first tour and first album in a couple of years. Is that right? Well, it's the first studio album in 13 years, which is a long time. Um, and it's the first tour since 2016 and it's, the fans have kind of been waiting for this. I have a funny story. This was actually the first band that I ever reviewed as a professional and it was very difficult because their songs are long and rambling and not rambling in a bad way. But um, they, the song titles don't really correlate and it was a challenge. So tool has like a interesting place in my heart. So anyway. Interesting. Sounds like they go into a lot of different directions. Yes. What our tool fan saying about this new album, they seem to really love it. They are saying that it kind of is the, it's what tool is all about. There are songs on this album, there are six songs on this album that are over 10 minutes long and it's, the length of the album is almost an hour and a half. And so this is, you know, it's, it's considered kind of art metal. So it has all of the things that the fans have been waiting for for 13 years and tool will be in San Diego on January 10th, 12th at VA has arena. Another musical artists did the stage in San Diego this month. Is McKayla Stross known as King princess. Here's cheap queen

Speaker 7: 15:03 sometimes, sometimes.

Speaker 5: 15:20 And she's experiencing some pretty big success in a relatively short amount of time. Who is she? Yeah, she is a 21 year old singer songwriter. She was recently on Saturday night live. Um, so she has been getting a lot of attention. Her parents were actually musicians and she grew up with a recording studio and so she's really good at manipulating sounds and doing all those effects that we heard. Her music is really honest. She has a dry sense of humor and they're very confessional songs, which I think is part of her appeal. Is that why you think? Yeah, her music has resonated so deeply with her fans. Yeah, and also her concerts are really inclusive and celebratory. They're kind of like a safe space for everyone and she's just a really smart songwriter. King princess will be in San Diego, January 28th at the observatory in North park and finally there's dance, the Martha Graham dance company.

Speaker 5: 16:15 It's also returning to San Diego. The dancers in this show have been described as most skilled and powerful dancers. You can ever hope to see a, what's it like? So it is very classical technique mixed with a modern sensibility. So you may not always know what's going on when you watch the dance, but the point is that you will definitely feel something. And the dance company is a long time leader in contemporary dance. So tell us more about that. So Martha Graham was a modern dancer and a choreographer who basically changed American modern dance. Um, she kind of wanted to show the inner self. Her company's been around for 93 years, some they took some time off, um, and they perform her over 180 works. Um, but lately the company's also been performing works of other modern choreographers, which is what you'll see as well when, when they're in San Diego. Fantastic. The Martha Graham dance company will be in San Diego, January 22nd at the civic theater. Nina Garin, editor in chief of Pacific magazine. Thank you so much for joining us. Thanks and have a great weekend.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.