5 more flu deaths reported in county

SAN DIEGO – Local health officials received reports of five more flu-related deaths last week in San Diego County, while confirmed flu cases reached a new season high, it was announced Wednesday.

Only one of the five residents to die had no additional medical issues — a 40-year-old North County man. He also had no record of receiving a flu vaccination, according to the county. The other four residents had additional medical issues and ranged from 47 to 90 years old.

County officials confirmed 675 flu cases last week, beating the previous season high of 618 cases. Last week’s case total is also a 21 percent jump over the previous week’s 536 cases. Because of the continued flu activity levels, the county extended its order for unvaccinated health care workers to wear a mask in patient care areas to the end of April.

The county Health and Human Services Agency has confirmed 54 flu deaths and 7,886 influenza cases so far this season. At this point last year, county officials had confirmed 318 deaths and 19,841 cases.

“People should continue getting vaccinated and taking other preventative measures, especially those at higher risk of developing complications,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “In addition to getting vaccinated, people should practice good hand hygiene.”

County health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly advise the annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older, especially demographics with a heightened risk of serious complications, such as pregnant women, people older than 65 and people with chronic conditions. Recent flu seasons have extended as late into the year as May, according to county health officials.

Flu shots are available at doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies, community clinics and the county’s public health centers. Residents can also call 211 or visit the county’s immunization program website, sdiz.com, for a list of county locations administering free vaccines.

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