Flu shot bandage
Flu shot bandage. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The number of influenza cases being reported in the region this season is higher than the average for the same period in recent years, San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency officials announced Wednesday.

A total of 195 lab-confirmed influenza cases have been reported so far this season. That compares to six at the same time last year — but that extremely low number came while many COVID-19 restrictions were still in place.

The prior five-year average was 128 cases to date.

Given this season’s pace, county health officials are urging San Diegans to get their flu vaccination before influenza activity increases in the region.

“San Diegans should get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect themselves and their families,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, county deputy public health officer. “Getting a flu shot is especially important given that COVID-19 is still negatively impacting our communities.”

“Influenza and COVID-19 can both be significant respiratory illnesses and we have safe and effective vaccines for both,” Kaiser said. “You can even get a flu and COVID shot at the same time.”

The HHSA has begun publishing the weekly Influenza Watch report, which tracks key influenza indicators and summarizes influenza surveillance in the region. The report is released every Wednesday during the flu season.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every year. It takes about two weeks for immunity to develop.

“Flu vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk of developing serious complications from influenza,” Kaiser said.

People with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, people aged 65 years and older and people who live with or care for others who are at higher risk are all more likely to get seriously sick from the flu.

The influenza vaccine is now available at doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies and is covered by medical insurance. People with no health care coverage can get vaccinated at one of the county’s six public health centers or a local community clinic. To find the nearest location, visit the county’s Flu Vaccine Locations page — or call 2-1-1 San Diego.

In addition to getting vaccinated, people should also do the following to avoid getting sick:

  • wash hands thoroughly and often
  • use hand sanitizers
  • stay away from sick people
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • clean commonly touched surfaces
  • if you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others

Last season, a total of 848 influenza cases were reported in San Diego, including two deaths. In 2019, a total of 108 San Diegans died from influenza and more than 20,700 flu cases were reported.

City News Service contributed to this article.