Flu deaths climb, but number of cases drops

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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.

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