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Flu Season

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SAN DIEGO — Eight people died of influenza-related causes last week in San Diego County, but the number of reported cases of the virus dropped for the third week in a row, the county Health and Human Services Agency announced today.

fluThe “flu season” death toll hit 43, with most of the victims either elderly or already suffering from a medical condition. Last year, there were 65 flu-related deaths.

The HHSA said 196 laboratory-confirmed flu cases were reported last week, compared to 297 the week prior and 460 the week before that. That brings the season total to nearly 3,600, according to the agency.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said recently that flu season appears to have peaked, but cases can still occur into April.

“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 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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 flu vaccine offers protection against the Pandemic H1N1, Influenza A H3N2 and Influenza B strains. It takes about two weeks for immunity to develop after getting vaccinated.

The flu vaccine is available at doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies. Those without medical insurance can go to a county public health center to get vaccinated. A list of locations is available online at http://www.sdiz.org or by calling 2-1-1.

Health officials suggest that in addition to getting vaccinated, people should wash their hands thoroughly and often, use hand sanitizers and avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth. They should also stay away from ill people, clean commonly touched surfaces and remain home when sick.

SAN DIEGO — Seven people died of influenza in the San Diego region last week despite a tail-off in the number of cases reported, the county Health and Human Services Agency announced Wednesday.

The death toll from “flu season” now stands at 40, with all but one involving a patient with an underlying medical problem, according to the HHSA. The total is the second-worst on record — the 2009-10 H1N1 pandemic flu season saw 58 deaths.

The agency reported 382 new influenza cases were diagnosed last week, a decline for the third week in a row.

“The flu typically extends through late March or early April,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “People should continue to take preventive measures to avoid getting sick, including getting the vaccine.”

The people at highest risk for complications include the elderly, pregnant women, infants and people with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes or a compromised immune system.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months or older should get a flu vaccine every year unless they’re allergic to it. The HHSA said it takes about two weeks for immunity to develop after getting vaccinated.

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

In addition to getting the vaccine, the HHSA recommended that people wash their hands thoroughly and often, use hand sanitizers, stay away from sick people, avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth and clean commonly touched surfaces. Those who are sick should stay home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and avoid contact with others.

Flu VaccineSAN DIEGO — Five people in San Diego County died of influenza last week, bringing the total during “flu season” to 19, the county Health and Human Services Agency announced Wednesday.

More than 2,000 cases of the illness have been diagnosed during flu season, amounting to a moderate total, the HHSA reported.

The fatality rate pales compared to 2009-10, when 58 people died in the San Diego area during the H1N1 pandemic. All but one victim this year had an underlying medical condition.

The HHSA said influenza is especially dangerous for the elderly, pregnant women and young infants, as well as for people with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or a compromised immune system.

“We have had mild flu seasons in the past two years, while this year has strains that are making people sicker,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer. “That is why it is extremely important that people get vaccinated to avoid getting sick.”

Wooten said the flu season might last a few more months, so it is not too late to get vaccinated. Everyone over 6 months old who is not allergic to the vaccine should get immunized, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Most people who become ill will not need medical attention and should recuperate at home, Wooten said. If symptoms do not improve or become worse, individuals should seek medical attention from their doctor or urgent care provider, but not an emergency department, according to Wooten.

People should also wash their hands thoroughly and often, use hand sanitizers, stay away from sick people, clean commonly touched surfaces and avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth, according to Wooten. Those who are sick should stay home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and avoid contact with others, according to Wooten.

MedicalSAN DIEGO — Eight flu patients died in San Diego County last week, bringing the total to 14 for the season, the county Health and Human Services Agency reported Wednesday.

In the week ending last Saturday, 503 cases of influenza were diagnosed, compared to 311 the previous week, according to the HHSA. In flu season as a whole, 1,179 people have come down with the illness. The agency said that despite the recent spike, the numbers are in line with previous years. By comparison, 22 people died in the 2003-04 flu season.

The age range of the deaths is from 46 to 92 years old and all but one had underlying medical conditions.

“Influenza deaths are very unfortunate but not uncommon,” said Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. “Influenza can be a serious and, in some cases, deadly. That is why it is strongly recommended that people get the vaccine.”

Nearly 10 percent of patients visiting emergency departments have flu-like illnesses. HHSA officials said the increased activity of flu patients is not higher than would be expected.

Influenza can be dangerous for the elderly, pregnant women and young infants, as well as for people with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or a compromised immune system, according to the HSAA.

The 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. For a list of locations, visit www.sdiz.org or call 2-1-1.

In addition to getting the vaccine, people can take the following precautions to avoid getting sick:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly
  • Stay away from sick people
  • Avoid commonly touched surfaces
  • Drink plenty of fluids

SAN DIEGO – As San Diego braces for the next wave of the flu, the Catholic Church joined the fight against it.

Cheryl Hunter is a parishioner at St. Columba Church in Serra Mesa and said new recommendations were recently handed down by the highest level of the Catholic Church.

“They don’t shake hands during the sign of peace,” said Hunter.  “We don’t receive wine.”

church“They’ve stopped holding hands during the ‘Our Father,’” said Hunter.  “They did this before. When the flu was real bad type of thing people are more than willing to do it.”

It may be strange not having the traditions the parishioners grew up with, but Hunter said she doesn’t mind, it’s about staying healthy and avoiding the flu.

Flu season continues to heat the debate on sick time laws. Employee rights attorney Norm Blumenthal said if you’re sick, you can take days off legally, but an employee does not have to pay you.

“Under the Family Medical Leave Act, you’re entitled to have days off if you’re sick, for yourself or for sick care of others. You have to have a note,” said Blumenthal.  “They can’t fire you for being sick and if you have a doctor’s note.”

But, Blumenthal said under the state law, employees are not required to provide paid sick days.

“The easy solution is just make your sick days part of your vacation pay or your personal time off ,” said Blumenthal.  “If you come to work sick you may miss a week, you’re better off taking a day off than missing a week.”

Barbara Beltaire owns Barbarella’s in La Jolla and said she only provides sick time for salary employees.

So far the restaurant has managed to avoid the flu and sickness this season.

“A few people have colds now and then,” she said. “We make sure they don’t contaminate and they stay home.”

While she doesn’t provide sick time for hourly employees, Beltaire said she always tries to help out a sick employee.

doctorSAN DIEGO – The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency has reported four more deaths in the region due to influenza.

The flu death total in the county this season is now six.

According to the HHSA, the victims were three elderly women — aged 89, 91 and 92 — a 49-year-old woman and two men, aged 49 and 66.

“Influenza can be a serious and deadly disease, especially for the elderly and young infants, as well as for people with chronic conditions like heart disease or diabetes,” said county public health officer Wilma Wooten, adding that last season 14 people died locally from influenza.

The number of people sick with influenza has doubled in the last week to a total of 311 reported cases. There were 143 cases reported the prior week, HHSA spokesman Jose Alvarez said.

A total of 670 flu cases this season have been reported as of January 12.

The vaccine is well-matched to the viruses that are circulating around San Diego, Wooten said.

“The best protection against the flu is to be vaccinated. It is not too late to do it,” said Wooten. “There is available vaccine for those who want to be immunized.

Wooten advised sick people should recuperate at home.  If symptoms worsen, they should seek a doctor or urgent care provider – not an emergency department..

“Emergency departments should only be used by people who are severely ill,” Wooten said. “People should go to an emergency department if they are having difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, or have flu-like symptoms that improve but then become worse.”

County public health centers have flu vaccine available for children and adults with no medical insurance. For a list of locations, visit www.sdiz.org or call 2-1-1.

Tips to prevent the flu:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often
  • Use hand sanitizers
  • Stay away from sick people
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth and clean commonly touched surfaces.

MedicalSAN DIEGO – Health officials said Tuesday a second woman has died of influenza related symptoms this flu season.

A 92-year-old woman died recently from the flu, San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency announced.  The first death in the county was of an 89-year-old woman on November 15.

There has been a sharp increase in the flu in San Diego and throughout the nation.

Between the last two weeks of 2012, the number of cases in the county jumped from 30 to 81, Dr. Wilma Wooten of the San Diego Health and Human Services said.

Health officials encourage everyone to be immunized to help protect themselves and their loved ones against the flu.

If you can’t afford to visit a pharmacy for your flu shot, the county has several locations that offer vaccinations for just $10. The fee may be waived if you are unable to pay. A list of the immunization clinics can be found on the San Diego Immunization Program website.

Flu cases are on the rise in San Diego County to start 2013. County deputy health officer Dr. Eric McDonald talks about what to expect this flu season and why getting a flu shot is your best bet to stay healthy this winter.

SAN DIEGO – The number of reported flu cases in San Diego County has taken a sharp increase, according to public health officials.

Between the last two weeks of 2012, the number of cases jumped from 30 to 81, Dr. Wilma Wooten of the San Diego Health and Human Services said.

“The thing that is predictable about flu season,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “Is that it is unpredictable.”

flu-vaccineDr. Wooten said the local increase is significant, but warned the total number of cases is still not out of the ordinary for this time of year in San Diego County.

Dr. Wooten is urging residents to get a flu shot, saying it’s the best way to protect yourself.

“It can be anywhere from 80 to low 90 percent effective,” said Dr. Wooten. “But if you do get the flu your symptoms are going to be less severe.”

San Diego County resident Ches Blevins remembers a run-in he had with the flu many years. It was before he started getting an annual flu shot.

“One time in particular it was more than two weeks of just feeling lousy,” said Blevins. “Like chronically.”

Now Blevins said he gets the flu shot not only to protect himself, but his family.

“The kids are in school and they’re exposed to a lot of different things,” said  Blevins. “And so I don’t want to expose them myself. Plus what they bring home. They’re at school and there are germs and that’s why it’s also important that we have the kids vaccinated as well.”

Dr. Wooten said young children, the elderly and people with medical conditions are most at risk for the flu. She still recommends everyone get vaccinated, so they have a less chance of spreading the flu.

Simple health guidelines can go a long way in protecting you.

“Getting your flu shot first,” said Dr. Wooten. “Washing your hands frequently and if you do become ill, stay home.”

If you can’t afford to visit a pharmacy for your flu shot, the county has several locations that offer vaccinations for just $10. The fee may be waived if you are unable to pay. A list of the immunization clinics can be found on the San Diego Immunization Program website.

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