County encourages vaccinations as flu season ramps up early

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SAN DIEGO -- County health officials Wednesday called on residents to receive an influenza vaccination soon as flu cases are on pace with the 2017-2018 season, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 350 people.

Two people have died in San Diego County and 235 cases of the virus have been confirmed by local health officials since the current flu season began. The county tracks flu activity year-round during each flu season, which corresponds with the county's fiscal year from July 1 to June 30.

At this time last year, the county Health and Human Services Agency hadn't confirmed a flu-related death and 67 flu cases had been confirmed. This season's first flu death was confirmed in August; in each of the last two years, the county's first flu death was confirmed in October.

Because of the early start to flu season, health officials urged residents to ensure they're vaccinated and avoid infecting others during the height of the season.

"Based on what was seen in the Southern Hemisphere during last year's flu season, earlier deaths reported this year and the increased number of lab-confirmed flu cases reported to date, we could anticipate that this season may be as severe as two years ago," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "However, we just don't know until time has passed."

County health officials and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly advise the annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older, especially in demographics with a heightened risk of serious complications like pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions like lung disease and people age 65 or older.

Residents can take precaution against contracting the virus by frequently washing their hands, cleaning commonly touched surfaces and avoiding contact with sick people. Residents can also get the flu vaccine at local doctors' offices, retail pharmacies and the county's public health centers.

A full list of locations offering flu shots can be found here or by calling 211 for the county's health hotline.

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