San Diego

Doctors Warn: Don't Be Fooled By A Mild Flu Season

Reported flu cases and deaths from influenza are markedly lower, but threat remains.

There were 410 confirmed cases of flu for the week ending Dec. 26, according to the County Health and Human Services Agency.

That's a fraction of the 2,332 cases reported for the same week last year, but the flu season lasts until at least April, so doctors recommend the flu vaccine, especially for the elderly, very young, and chronically ill.

They also report seeing more cases of the common cold this year.

"I was in bed Christmas day, the day after Christmas, and the day after that, so it was no fun," said North County resident Fletch Paddison.

His advice to everyone who hasn’t gotten their flu shot this season: do yourself a favor and don’t delay getting the vaccine.

“You really should worry about (getting and) spreading the flu,” Paddison said. “I think it’s everybody’s responsibility to get a flu shot.”

The numbers confirm that this year’s flu season to date is much milder than last year’s.

But doctor’s warn, the virus will be active until April, even May.

“I know a lot of people are not believers, but the data really shows that getting the flu vaccine is probably the most important thing you can do to help reduce the incidence of flu," said Dr. Kathlyn Ignacio of the Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group in Sorrento Valley.

Ignacio said the elderly, very young and chronically ill are most at risk.

The county health department confirmed seven flu-related deaths as of last week.

"If you know somebody, or you have a loved one who is elderly and has not yet made it to their doctor or gotten a flu shot, it should be encouraged," Ignacio said.

The county health department has the following additional tips for avoiding flu:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often.
  • Use hand sanitizers
  • Stay away from sick people
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Clean commonly touched surfaces
  • If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others.

Ignacio said this has also been an especially bad year for the common cold, with many patients experiencing flu-like symptoms, but not testing positive for the flu, which confirms that they instead have a non-flu cold virus.

Some of Ignacio’s patients have caught more than one cold virus, which has keep them sick for a month, or longer.

“They think they’ve been sick (with the same cold) for six weeks, but really, they’re had two or three (different) illnesses in a row,” Ignacio said.

She also urged cold and flu sufferers to stay home from work and, in most cases, don’t rush to see a doctor, if you do get a bad cold or flu.

“That way, you're not spreading your germs or your viral particles around and getting other people sick,” Ignacio said. “It's just best to stay home."

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