SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Seven influenza-related deaths were confirmed last week in San Diego County, bringing the number of fatalities so far this flu season to 57, compared to 30 at this time last year, the Health and Human Services Agency reported Wednesday.

The ages of the patients ranged from 60 to 89, and all had underlying medical conditions, according to the HHSA.

The total number of cases dropped for the third week in a row. The county logged 1,548 cases last week, compared to 1,689 the week before.

"While influenza cases have continued to decline, flu activity is still widespread in the region," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "People should continue getting vaccinated and taking other preventive measures to avoid getting sick."

The seasonal total of influenza cases is now 15,097. Last flu season saw 4,414 by this time and 9,655 in total.

County health officials are encouraging people who are sick to first contact their health care provider by telephone or arrange an urgent appointment, but to go to an emergency department if they have any of the following symptoms:

-- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath;

-- chest pain or abdominal pain;

-- sudden dizziness;

-- confusion;

-- severe or persistent vomiting; or

-- flu-like symptoms that appear to get better, but then return with a fever and worse cough.

County health officials and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly advise the annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older, especially in demographics with a heightened risk of serious complications, such as pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and lung disease, and people age 65 or older.
Residents can take precautions against contracting the virus by frequent hand washing, cleaning commonly touched surfaces, avoiding contact with sick people, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

The flu vaccine is available at local doctors' offices, retail pharmacies and the county's public health centers. A full list of locations offering flu shots can be found at the county's immunization website, or by calling 211 for the county's health hotline.

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