SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - The flu has reached widespread levels in California, according to health officials, and more flu-related deaths are anticipated before flu season is over. Some people around the county are taking precautions like wearing surgical masks, but will that really prevent someone from getting sick?
So far in San Diego county, there have been six flu-related deaths. All of the victims are adults.
"I wouldn't quite characterize it as an epidemic," County of San Diego health officer Dr. Wilma J. Wooten said.
We're only in the middle of flu season, which typically runs from October to late March, so there's no ruling out that the worst is yet to come. Local health officials are seeing a recent rise in flu cases.
"Locally here in San Diego we went from four percent down to three percent, and then just this week back up to six percent," Wooten said.
There are 670 reported flu cases in the county. The statistics are scaring some into wearing surgical masks. It's common to see people wearing masks out in public in some Asian countries. They do this as a courtesy to prevent spreading their own infection to others. But do the masks actually work as intended here?
The flu can spread two ways: through direct contact and through large droplets. A mask will protect against those large droplets ike from a sneeze or a cough, but heath officials say something like this is not necessary unless you are in very close contact with someone with the flu.
"In the general public, there's no evidence to support the use of masks and we do not recommend the use of masks in the general public," Wooten said.
Unfortunately, the masks are not able to completely block or contain particles as small as a virus. You'd need a higher-rated mask for that.
The county health department says one of the best defenses against the flu is getting vaccinated.