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Surge in flu cases

 January 12, 2023 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Thursday, January 12th.

Why flu cases hit a decade high in San Diego County. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….

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San Diego County supervisors voted four-to-zero yesterday, in support of restricting the placement of sexually violent predators near homeschools.

The proposal directs the county’s chief administrative officer to request that state legislation take home school sites into account when deciding on placements.

As it does for public and private schools.

The motion comes after a state hospital last year proposed putting S-V-P Douglas Badger into a home in Borrego Springs that’s near a home school.

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Restoration of passenger train service between Orange and San Diego counties is being delayed, again.

This time because of the recent rainy weather.

Officials suspended rail service in September after inspectors detected movement in the bluffs above the San Clemente rail line.

During an Orange County Transportation Authority board meeting, officials said limited passenger service could be restored late next month, at the earliest.

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A veteran San Diego County sheriff's deputy pleaded not guilty this week to burglary and drug possession charges.

Prosecutors allege Cory Dean Richey stole prescription medication from drug drop-off boxes at a sheriff's patrol station between November and this month.

A prosecutor told the judge during Tuesday’s arraignment, Richey may have been selling the drugs.

He has been suspended without pay by the sheriff's department, and was released to a residential drug treatment facility as the investigation continues.

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From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

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This year’s flu season has so far been a doozy.

By the time November was over, it might have felt like everyone you know had the flu.

But is it as bad as we think?

KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser examined the data behind an unusual season.

San Diego County saw more cases of the flu in 2022 than in any other year over the past decade. That’s according to data from the county’s Health and Human Services Agency. In just five weeks last fall, there were more cases than in all of 2021. So there is no doubt the flu hit San Diego early and hard this season. But experts are still debating why. Theories range from decreased immunity due to COVID and increased socializing to an earlier flu season in other parts of the world. There is, however, one obvious cause, says UC San Diego epidemiologist Rebecca Fielding-Miller. People stopped wearing masks. “People were masking, people were being really conscientious about airborne spread of disease, people weren't gathering as much, especially in enclosed spaces, and this year that is different. And so we're seeing this huge resurgence of the flu that we haven't seen in the last few years.” She says another factor could be kids in school without masks. “Last year when we had such high levels of masking and kids were back in school in person for the most part, and we still didn't see this spread of flu.” Almost half of the 2022 cases were in kids 17 and under. Usually, there are a lot more cases in adults than children. Very few people got the flu during the first two years of the pandemic. So that could make us more susceptible now that we’re back to gathering in person without masks. So says Dr. Davey Smith, an infectious disease specialist at UC San Diego. “You can think of the community as a gas tank full of immune responses … So it fills it up every flu season and it wanes over the year when flu is not circulating. And then when the flu hits again, it fills the tank back up.” But, he says, for the past two years, the tank was on empty. “So therefore, when flu hit this year and there was more social interaction, less masking, that left more of our community open for infection and it really let it spread very quickly.” But what might be true for a community isn’t true for an individual. Fielding-Miller says your immune system isn’t like a muscle that got flabby without exercise. “You don't have to exercise it all the time. Not getting sick for three years just means you didn't get sick for three years, which is really nice. It doesn't mean you're setting yourself up to get more sick later.” It’s important to note that the current flu season is far from over – it usually goes through March. And experts say it still remains to be seen whether the 2022-2023 will end up being historically bad. It could just be a normal season that peaked abnormally early …. and we all noticed because COVID has made us hypervigilant.  That’s the thinking of  Shane Crotty, an infectious disease expert at the  La Jolla Institute of Immunology. “My bet was that it'd be a fairly average winter for a number of these diseases, but that the perception would be it's a really bad winter season because such a high percentage of the population is now on high alert.” People are also wondering whether this year’s flu season will make next year’s easier. That’s a difficult question to answer. For one thing, flu viruses are different every year and hard to predict. Smith of UC San Diego goes back to the gas tank analogy. He says the current season could possibly fill the community tank. “There may be an increase in the amount of immune gas that we have in our community that will last us a little bit better for the next year and we might get into a more predictable cycle for our flu. However, what I've noticed, if anything over the past two and a half years with COVID, is not to make predictions.’ There is one thing Smith said individuals can do to ensure their immunity gas tank is as full as possible: Get a flu shot. CT KPBS News

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In other health-related news, a new COVID sub-variant that’s sweeping across the north east is slowly gaining a foothold in San Diego.

The X-B-B-dot-ONE-dot-FIVE (xbb.1.5) strain appears to be more contagious.

The latest data shows it makes up under 10-percent of covid infections in San Diego County.

Dr Eric Topol from the Scripps Translational Institute in La Jolla believes it will become the dominant strain, and people shouldn’t let their guard down.

“The virus has a myriad of ways to hurt us and we keep trying to ignore it and it’s never going to get tired it’s indefatigable where us humans after three years of this have had enough obviously and are very tired of it but it’s no time to let down.”

Topol says this variant is a type we haven’t seen before, and could lead to reinfections.

“There’s no data to support it’s more or less severe it just spreads easily and has overtaken all the variants that preceded it.”

The latest wastewater testing shows the amount of covid in our region is beginning to increase.

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Coming up.... An alternative to drinking alcohol. We’ll have that and more, just after the break.

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Egg prices continue to rise… if you can find eggs at all!

KPBS reporter Melissa Mae went to a local grocery store to get an update.

MM: If you’ve passed the dairy department in your grocery store recently, you’ve probably noticed the limited supply and egg-stremely high prices of eggs. MM: Josh Aftreth is the dairy manager at Windmill Farms. MM: Aftreth spoke with veterinarians at the Eben-Haezer Egg Ranch in Ramona and says the bird flu has really impacted the egg supply.  JA “They said 38 million egg laying chickens have died and then there’s a bunch of other birds too. It’s hard to contain because migratory birds are transmitting it, so it’s really hard to contain.” MM: According to the Food Market Data company, Urner Barry…As of Tuesday January 10th, the average price for eggs was $4.33 per dozen. Melissa Mae KPBS News.

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For many, the start of the new year marks a time for new or renewed goals.

Goals that often include healthier habits.

And for some, this means participating in Dry January.

Where you detox from the winter holiday season by not drinking for a month.

A way to wipe the slate clean after perhaps a boozy few weeks.

One way to keep on track, can be non-alcoholic alternatives.

Beth Demmon is a freelance writer in San Diego.

She joined KPBS’s Jade Hindmon to talk about non-alcoholic options.

From what I hear, Non-alcoholic beer has always had a pretty bad taste. But… they are showing up on shelves from local craft breweries. So is that changing? Are n-a beers tasty now?

Why do you think these breweries are upping their n-a game?

What types of drinks work best as non-alcoholic alternatives? 

Often, people drink to be social, to connect with other people, do these kinds of alternatives help keep those connections, while allowing us to cut back on drinking?

There’s often pressure to drink-which can be uncomfortable, especially for people who don’t drink at all for whatever reason… Could this help abstainers too?

Are there places in San Diego where you can find a great mock-tail?

That was Beth Demmon, a freelance drinks writer in San Diego.

Her first book, ‘The Craft Beer Lovers Guide to Cider,’ is scheduled for release in the fall.

And, there is still time to tell us your new year’s resolution, whether that be participating in Dry January, deciding to not make resolutions this year, or something entirely different

You can share your 20-23 goals and resolutions, by calling us at 6-1-9- 4-5-2-0-2-2-8 and leaving a voicemail.

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That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

Flu cases in San Diego County hit a decade high, but experts are still debating why. In other news, why the cost of eggs is increasing. Plus, non-alcoholic options for those participating in Dry January.