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

The seasonal influenza death count rose to 39 last week in San Diego County as seven more fatalities were recorded, but the number of flu cases was down from the prior week, he Health and Human Services Agency reported Wednesday.

At this time last year, 24 flu deaths had been confirmed in the San Diego region, according to the HHSA.

There were 1,880 local lab-confirmed cases last week, 380 fewer than the week before, bringing the seasonal total to 11,778. Last flu season saw 3,493 by this time and 9,655 in total.

“Influenza remains widespread in the region and people should continue taking the recommended precautions to avoid getting sick,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “The best way to prevent the flu is getting vaccinated.”

County health officials are encouraging people who are sick to first contact their health care provider by telephone or arrange an urgent appointment, but to go to an emergency department if they have any of the following symptoms:

— difficulty breathing or shortness of breath;

— chest pain or abdominal pain;

— sudden dizziness;

— confusion;

— severe or persistent vomiting; or

— flu-like symptoms that appear to get better, but then return with a fever and worse cough.

County health officials and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly advise the annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older, especially in demographics with a heightened risk of serious complications, such as pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and lung disease, and people age 65 or older.

Residents can take precautions against contracting the virus by frequent hand washing, cleaning commonly touched surfaces, avoiding contact with sick people, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

The flu vaccine is available at local doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies and the county’s public health centers. A full list of locations offering flu shots can be found at the county’s immunization website, sdiz.org, or by calling 211 for the county’s health hotline.

— City News Service