County reports first flu-related death of season

SAN DIEGO – A 73-year-old woman who died of complications from influenza was the region’s first fatality of the current flu season, county health officials reported Thursday.

The unnamed woman died Tuesday after a brief hospitalization, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency. She was not vaccinated and suffered from existing medical conditions.

“This is one of the earliest deaths from seasonal influenza ever reported in the county,” said Dr. Sayone Thihalolipavan, the county deputy public health officer. “The seasonal influenza vaccine is widely available and we urge everyone six months of age and older to get it before flu activity increases.”

In the last flu season, 68 people died — mostly older patients who already had health problems, the HHSA said. The first fatality last year wasn’t reported until Oct. 28.

Sixty lab-confirmed influenza cases have been reported so far this season in San Diego County, compared to 68 at this point last year. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that influenza activity is low across the country, although localized influenza outbreaks have been reported.

The HHSA is hosting flu vaccination clinics around the county this month. Details and locations are online.

The current flu vaccines offer protection against pandemic H1N1, as well as influenza A H3N2 and influenza B strains.

The CDC recommends flu shots annually for everyone at least 6 months old. Vaccination is more important for people with weakened immune systems, as well as those who are pregnant, elderly or live with or care for others at high risk.

Other suggestions for staying healthy include frequent hand-washing, using hand sanitizers, staying away from sick people, avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth, and cleaning commonly touched surfaces.

Flu vaccines are available at doctors’ offices and pharmacies. People without medical insurance can go to a county public health center to get vaccinated. A list of locations is available at online¬†or by calling 211.