SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The number of reported influenza-related deaths in the San Diego region this flu season has reached 142 -- a record high, county health officials reported Wednesday.
In comparison, there were 14 deaths in San Diego County at the same time last year.
It's the most deadly flu season since the county began collecting records two decades ago, health officials said. The previous deadliest flu season was in 2014-2015, when 97 people died.
Though deaths have continued to rise in January, health officials say a drop in the overall number of cases for two consecutive weeks could be a sign of a peak.
There were 2,070 lab-confirmed cases in the county last week, down from 3,046 the week before.
"Unfortunately, after a high number of flu cases is reported, deaths typically follow," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "We continue to monitor flu activity in the region to see if cases and emergency room activity will continue to drop and determine whether the season has peaked."
Wooten said the record number of deaths could be due to the use of an electronic reporting system, which makes it easier for medical professionals to report and identify flu-related deaths.
Public health officials say it's not too late to get vaccinated.
"The flu vaccine is the best public health tool we have, and an annual flu shot is recommended to everyone over six months," Wooten said. "The vaccine helps your body develop protection in two weeks and can lessen severity if one gets the flu. The vaccine is matched with all four circulating strains."
In addition to getting vaccinated, health experts say people should wash their hand thoroughly and often, use hand sanitizer, stay away from sick people, avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth, and avoid contact with others in the event they fall ill.
Vaccines are available at doctors' offices and retail pharmacies.
Those without insurance can go to a county public health center to get vaccinated. For a list of locations, visit www.sdiz.org or call 2-1-1.