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Number of flu cases doubled in the last week

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SAN DIEGO – The rate of influenza cases in the San Diego region is running 82 percent above last flu season — 881 compared to 313 in the same period, county health officials reported Wednesday.

Also included in the Health and Human Service Agency’s weekly influenza update was the county’s fifth fatality of “flu season,” a 96-year-old woman who had a previous medical condition. The toll was three during the comparable period of last flu season.

“It is not too late to get a flu shot. The flu vaccine is well matched to the viruses that are circulating,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “Influenza season may last as late as April or May.”

In the last week of 2016, nearly 300 new influenza cases were confirmed by laboratory testing, compared to just under 150 the previous week.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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 online or by calling 211.