Influenza virus
Influenza virus binding to a respiratory tract cell. Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 Influenza in San Diego County remains relatively low, with 34 new lab-confirmed cases reported in the past week, eight more than the week previous, the county Health and Human Services Agency said Wednesday.

No additional deaths were reported for the period ending Saturday. There have been two influenza deaths so far this season.

“While flu infections continue to trend low, nearly twice as many San Diegans have been diagnosed with influenza this season, compared to last season,” said Dr. Wilma J. Wooten, the county public health officer. “Flu is preventable and the influenza vaccine is the best tool we have to prevent this seasonal illness.”

According to the HHSA, in the past week, emergency department visits for influenza-like illness were 3% of all visits, same as the previous week.

Total lab-confirmed cases to date number 1,543, compared to 689 at the same time last season and a 8,071 prior 5-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 at sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/hhsa/programs/phs/immunization_branch/Vaccine_Pr eventable_Diseases/Seasonal_Influenza/Flu_Vaccine_Locations.html 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; and

— 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, Inc.