Flu deaths rise as new cases fall

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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.

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