Flu shot bandage. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

San Diego County health officials are concerned this year’s flu season might be more severe and asked county residents to get influenza vaccinations, it was announced Wednesday.

This is in spite of mask wearing, physical distancing and COVID-19 preventive measures helping to greatly reduce the number of influenza cases reported in the region last year.

“San Diegans are more likely to be out and about this flu season and that could lead to more people getting sick from influenza,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, county deputy public health officer.

“The best protection we have against the flu is getting vaccinated. The vaccine is safe and effective and can help prevent people from getting sick, ending up in the hospital or, worse, dying.”

The County Health and Human Services Agency 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.

For the week ending Saturday, the report shows the following:

— Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness were 3% of all visits, same as the previous week;

— Total influenza deaths to date: 0, same at this time last season; and

— Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 215 — compared to 7 last season and an average of 145 at this date for the past five years.

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 age 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 — Sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/hhsa/programs/phs/immunization_branch/Vaccine_Pr eventable_Diseases/Seasonal_Influenza/Flu_Vaccine_Locations.html — 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; and

— 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

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