SAN DIEGO (CNS) — Four new deaths in the San Diego area attributable to influenza-related complications were reported by county health officials Wednesday, bringing the "flu season" toll to nine.
The victims ranged in age from 60 to 96 and all had underlying medical conditions, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency. At this time last year, three people in the San Diego region had died from the flu.
"These new deaths are an important reminder that influenza can be deadly," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "The best protection against the flu is getting vaccinated."
Influenza is continuing to spread, with the number of cases confirmed by laboratory testing last week 56 percent higher than the week before. Overall, more than 1,300 cases of the flu have been diagnosed in San Diego County, nearly triple the almost 450 at this time last year.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu shots annually for everyone 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 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. People 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.