Hospitals in San Diego County were feeling the effects Wednesday of a worsening influenza season, as thousands of new flu cases were confirmed by the county's health department.
In the span of one week, San Diego County's Department of Health and Human Services reported a nearly four-times increase in flu cases to the week prior —2,227 new flu cases were reported last week compared to a total of 563 lab-confirmed flu cases the week before.
The flu outbreak also claimed its 11th life last week. At the same time last year, four people had died from the flu.
Hospitals around San Diego County have seen an increase in flu patients due to what has been deemed by county officials as a "worrisome" flu season.
Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa set up a "surge" tent outside the entrance to the emergency room in order to be able to triage patients with flu symptoms.
The goal is "to manage/screen an influx of walk-in flu patients today," Sharp Grossmont Hospital said in a statement to NBC 7.
About 3,900 flu cases have been reported this season. At the same time last year that number was just 599.
“The number of flu cases that were reported last week is the highest in a single week that we have seen in recent years," county deputy public health officer Dr. Sayone Thihalolipavan said.
Medical professionals are not holding back. They want everyone to get a flu vaccination as a precaution.
NBC 7 spoke with the medical director of Sharp Rees-Stealy Urgent Care who described this flu season as the worst the region has seen in eight years.
"The vaccine is still the single best option we have to prevent influenza," said Dr. Phil Yphantides.
Across the U.S., cases of influenza have increased sharply, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of states reporting widespread flu activity jumped from 12 to 23 as of Dec. 16.
The CDC reports that the proportion of people in the U.S. seeing a doctor for influenza-like symptoms was 3.5 percent, a level higher than the national baseline of 2.2 percent.
Yphantides adds if you think you have the flu and it is not urgent, stay at home from work or school to prevent contaminating others.
Take over-the-counter fever reducers, wash your hands frequently and make sure to drink plenty of fluids.
The flu vaccine is available at doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies. If you don’t have medical insurance, you can go to a County public health center to get vaccinated. For a list of locations, visit www.sdiz.org or call 211.