Number of local flu deaths jumps to 91

SAN DIEGO –- The number of reported influenza-related deaths in the San Diego region doubled last week, bringing this season’s total to 91, while the number of lab-confirmed flu cases was down, county health officials reported Tuesday.

Eleven percent of all emergency room visits in San Diego County last week were for treatment of flu-like symptoms., according to the county Health and Human Services Agency. There were 2,992 lab-confirmed flu cases in the region during the same time period compared to 3,354 the previous week. The season’s total now stands at 10,324 — about eight times higher than the number of cases at this time last year.

Despite the skyrocketing number of cases, health officials told the Board of Supervisors it hasn’t yet reached emergency status.

“It is very important to note that the (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the state have not declared an emergency, at present, as resources have not been exhausted,” said Dr. Nick Yphantides, the county’s chief medical officer.

Public health officials say it’s not too late to get vaccinated.

“The flu vaccine is the best public health tool we have, and an annual flu shot is recommended to everyone over 6 months,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, director of the county’s public health services. “The vaccine helps your body develop protection in two weeks and can lessen severity if one gets the flu. The vaccine is matched with all four circulating strains.”