Man receives flu vaccination
A man receives a flu vaccination earliier this year at a San Diego County health facility. Courtesy County News Center

San Diego County has recorded its first influenza death of the season, while the number of cases has increased nearly 45% since last week, officials said Thursday.

A 55-year-old man from the North Central region of the county died on Oct. 15. According to the Health and Human Services Agency, he had underlying medical conditions and had not been vaccinated against the flu. He tested negative for COVID-19.

“Every flu death is tragic and our condolences go out to the man’s family and friends,” said Dr. Wilma J. Wooten, county public health officer. “Unfortunately, we see influenza deaths every fall and winter and I encourage San Diegans to do their part to stop the spread of illnesses and prevent deaths.”

The county reported 856 lab-confirmed flu cases for the week ending Saturday, a significant jump over the previous week, when 591 new infections were reported.

County data also found emergency department visits for influenza-like illnesses made up 6% of all visits, compared with 5% the previous week.

The county’s total lab-confirmed cases to date increased to 2,528  – compared to 232 at the same time last season.

The influenza vaccine, available at doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies, 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. It takes about two weeks after the shot until immunity develops.

Wooten has said of the current season, “we are already seeing cases spike, so we have reason to believe that the flu could be extremely disruptive this year.”

“Protect yourself and your family now and get the flu shot as soon as you can,” Wooten said.

Flu cases fell sharply the last two seasons due to the pandemic and a slow return to offices and other public venues even after lockdowns were lifted.

During the 2021-2022 flu season, 4,192 flu cases were reported and eight San Diegans died. The year before, a total of 848 influenza cases were reported in San Diego, including two deaths.

City News Service