San Diego, California - Eight additional flu-related deaths were reported last week, but the number of cases in the region continued to drop, as did the percentage of patients who went to an emergency room with influenza-like illness.

For the week ending February 15, 2014, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency released the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 6 percent (8 percent previous week)
  • Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 196 (297 previous week)
  • Total influenza deaths to date: 43
  • Total lab-confirmed influenza cases to date: 3,561

San Diego residents who have died from influenza this season ranged in age from 26 to 100 years old, and almost all had underlying medical conditions. Sixty-five deaths were reported locally last flu season.

“Influenza activity in the region appears to be winding down and that is definitely a good sign,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer.

More people have required intensive care for influenza at local hospitals this season, with 179 cases reported compared to 116 for all of last season.

The influenza season typically ends in early April, but influenza may be present throughout the year.

“It is never too late to get a flu shot,” Wooten said. “People should also continue practicing good hand hygiene and taking other preventive measures to avoid getting sick.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine every year. The vaccine is especially important for people who are at higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu, including people with certain medical conditions, pregnant women, and people 65 years and older.

The current flu vaccines offer protection against Pandemic H1N1, Influenza A H3N2 and Influenza B strains. It takes about two weeks for immunity to develop after getting vaccinated.

In addition to getting vaccinated, you should also wash your hands thoroughly and often, use hand sanitizers and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Staying away from sick people, cleaning commonly touched surfaces and staying home when sick are also recommended.

The flu vaccine is available at doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies. If you don’t have medical insurance, you can go to a County public health center to get vaccinated. For a list of locations, visit www.sdiz.org or call 2-1-1.