San Diego flu season death toll rises - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Diego flu season death toll rises

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Another 10 people died of influenza-related causes last week in the San Diego area, bringing the region's "flu season" death toll to 29, the county Health and Human Services Agency announced Wednesday.

The victims so far this year have been 67 years old and up, and all had underlying medical conditions, according to the HHSA. The count at this time last year was 32.

More than 3,975 influenza cases in San Diego County have been confirmed in the laboratory, above the 2,600-plus at this point in 2014.

Given the climbing number of cases and fatalities, the HHSA suggested that people who get flu-like symptoms immediately contact their doctors and ask about antiviral medications.

"Antiviral drugs work best if given within 48 hours after symptoms appear," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "It is especially important that people at higher risk of developing complications from the flu get antiviral drugs right away to treat their illness."

The HHSA said such drugs are recommended for high-risk groups, including people with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and lung disease, even if their symptoms are under control; pregnant women; people 65 years and older; and people who live with or care for others who are at higher risk.

Last year, 70 people died of influenza-related causes, the most since the agency began keeping such records.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu shots annually for everyone who is at least 6 months old. Vaccination is more important for people with weakened immune systems, as well as those who are pregnant, elderly or live with or care for others at a high risk.

Other suggestions for staying healthy include frequent hand-washing, using hand sanitizers, staying away from sick people, avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth and cleaning commonly touched surfaces.

Flu vaccines are available at doctors' offices and pharmacies. Those without medical insurance can go to a county public health center to get vaccinated. A list of locations is available at www.sdiz.org or by calling 211.

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