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Flu season may have peaked

injectionSAN DIEGO — Three people died of influenza in San Diego County last week, but the rate of infections appears to be slowing, the Health and Human Services Agency announced Wednesday.

The “flu season” death toll in the county stood at 33 at the end of the week, the second-highest total on record, according to the HHSA. The worst was 58 fatalities during the 2009-10 H1N1 pandemic.

All but one of the 33 had an underlying medical condition, the HHSA reported.

The agency reported that 718 cases were diagnosed, around 140 less than the week before — marking the second straight week of a declining total.

According to the county health agency, the total number of cases for flu season in the region is 3,677.

“We’ve seen two weeks of steady declines in the number of lab-confirmed influenza cases and that is a good sign,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer. “However, people should not become complacent. People should continue to take preventive measures to avoid getting sick, including getting vaccinated.”

Influenza is affecting the elderly much more this season, but pregnant women, infants and people with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or compromised immune systems are also at higher risk for complications.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommend that everyone 6 months and older who is not allergic get a flu vaccine every year. It takes about two weeks for immunity to develop after getting the shot.

Vaccine is available throughout San Diego County at doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies. County public health centers have flu vaccine available for children and adults with no medical insurance.

Wooten said most people who become ill will not need medical attention and should recuperate at home to avoid exposing others. Individuals with underlying medical conditions and those with symptoms that do not improve or that worsen should seek medical attention from their doctors or urgent care providers, according to the HHSA.

The agency advises flu patients not to go to hospitals so that emergency departments don’t become overwhelmed.

To avoid catching the flu, people should wash their hands thoroughly and often, use hand sanitizers, stay away from sick people, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth and clean commonly touched surfaces, according to the HHSA. Those who get sick should stay home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and avoid contact with others, health officials said.