A nurse prepares a shot of flu vaccine. Courtesy County News Center

San Diego County reported 81 new influenza cases last week, a decline of 40% from the previous week’s 137 cases, the county Health and Human Services Agency announced Wednesday.

Flu cases in the region are much lower compared to the seasonal average, but county health officials are urging San Diegans to get vaccinated to prevent getting sick at a time when hospitals are being inundated with COVID-19 patients.

“With widespread transmission of COVID-19 in our community, it’s so important that all San Diegans do their part to prevent illness,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. “I urge anyone who has not gotten the flu vaccine, to get vaccinated now. The flu vaccine is safe and effective, and you can get it at the same time as your COVID-19 booster.”

For the week ending Saturday, the agency reported that emergency department visits for influenza-like illness were 8% of all visits, up from 7% the previous week.

Total lab-confirmed cases to date now number 1,262, compared to 589 at the same time last season and a 4,002 prior five-year average during the same week.

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

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every year. People with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, people age 65 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.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination to develop protection against the virus.

The vaccine is 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 211.

In addition to getting vaccinated, health officials said people should also do the following:

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

Every Wednesday during flu season, the HHSA publishes the Influenza Watch weekly report, which tracks key flu indicators and summarizes influenza surveillance in the region.

City News Service contributed to this article.

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