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The death toll in San Diego County from influenza- related causes this flu season is up to 19, with 11 people dying from the illness last week, the county Health and Human Services Agency announced Wednesday.

The number of fatalities puts the region ahead of last year’s pace, which resulted in 70 people dying because of the flu, the highest number since the HHSA began tracking the figures. At this point in 2014, 17 people had died.

The victims ranged in age from 68 to 95 and all had underlying medical conditions, according to the HHSA.

According to the agency, fewer cases of the flu were reported last week, almost 700, compared to the week before, 985. So far this year, 3,265 cases have been confirmed via laboratory testing, compared to a bit over 2,000 at this point last year.

“Influenza can be a deadly disease. Everyone should get a flu shot,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer. “If you have not done it, get vaccinated now. Flu activity in the region intensifies in January and February and typically lasts through the end of March or early April.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu shots annually for everyone who is at least 6 months old. Vaccination is more important for people with weakened immune systems, as well as those who are pregnant, elderly or live with or care for others at a high risk.

Other suggestions for staying healthy include frequent hand-washing, using hand sanitizers, staying away from sick people, avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth and cleaning commonly touched surfaces.

Flu vaccines are available at doctors offices and pharmacies. Those without medical insurance can go to a county public health center to get vaccinated. A list of locations is available at www.sdiz.org or by calling 211.

—City News Service

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