A 17-year-old girl who died from influenza is the first pediatric flu death reported this season, health officials said Wednesday.
The teen, who died on Feb. 25 as a result of influenza A/H3, had underlying medical conditions, The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) said. Her death was reported last week.
In the past week, three others deaths were also reported, bringing the total number of flu deaths this season to 72.
By this same time last year, 68 people - including a nine-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl - had died from the flu in the county.
“Influenza deaths are very unfortunate, but a teen dying from the flu is especially tragic,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer, in a statement. “Many people may have spring vacations coming up, and you should get vaccinated at least 2 weeks before your trip.”
The HHSA said influenza activity has reached a new high this season. People aged 17 to 98 years old have died from the flu, though most have been over the age of 65. All but three had underlying medical conditions.
Wooten said for those with underlying health conditions, influenza can be deadly. This is why health officials recommend getting a flu vaccine, as it is considered the best protection against the illness.
Health officials recommend an annual flu shot; after the vaccination, it takes two weeks for immunity to develop, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The vaccination is especially recommended for those at high-risk of experiencing complications with the flu, including people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women and people age 65 and older.
The HHSA’s latest “Influenza Watch” report, from the week ending on March 18, says three percent of all emergency department visits in San Diego were patients experiencing flu-like symptoms.
There were 200 lab-confirmed cases of influenza for the week, down from the 277 the week prior.
To date, there have been 4,944 lab-confirmed cases of the flu in San Diego. Last year at this time, there were 5,437.
Flu season in the U.S. occurs between December and May.
For a list of county public health centers where you can get a flu shot, click here or call 211.