Flu-Related Deaths Rise to 19 in San Diego

Five more deaths over the past week bring county closer to record number

By Lauren Steussy
|  Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013  |  Updated 10:59 AM PDT
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Flu Outbreak Clogs Doctors' Offices

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A bottle of influenza virus vaccine is seen at the CVS/pharmacy's MinuteClinic.

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Five more San Diego residents died from influenza last week, bringing the county's death toll up to 19, according to the County Health and Human Services Agency.

The number of deaths is close to exceeding the county's record of 22 flu-related deaths in the 2003-04 season, not including the H1N1-related deaths from 2009 through 2011. 

“We have had mild flu seasons in the past two years," said county public health officer Wilma Wooten.  "[But] this year has strains that are making people sicker."

The ages of the victims ranges from 46 to 97, according to a statement from the County Health and Human Services Agency. All but one of the patients had underlying medical conditions. 

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The number of people who have died from the flu has risen from 14 last week to 19 this week. But the county is also seeing a quickly rising number of people affected by the flu as well. This week alone, the county reported 861 lab-confirmed flu cases. That's up from about 500 last week. 

The number of flu cases this season has now passed 2,000. Those cases make up 12 percent of all emergency visits now, compared to 10 percent last week. 

Despite the numbers, the county is still considering this a moderate influenza season. 

The flu vaccine is still available at local pharmacies and doctors’ offices. County public health centers also have flu shots for children and adults with no medical insurance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people 6 months and older receive a vaccination.

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State officials warned earlier this month that flu is on the rise, though California's numbers have been comparatively low so far this season.

Most people who become ill should recuperate at home, Wooten said. If symptoms do not improve or become worse, individuals should seek medical attention from their doctor or urgent care provider, but not an emergency department.

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