SAN DIEGO (CBS 8/CNS) - The death toll in San Diego County from influenza-related causes this flu season stood at 19 Thursday, which is more than double what it was a week ago.
Eleven people died locally from influenza-related causes in the last week, according to San Diego County's Health and Human Services Agency. All of this year's 19 victims range in age from 68 to 95 and had underlying medical conditions, an HHSA statement said.
The number of fatalities this year puts the region ahead of last year's pace, which resulted in 70 people dying because of the flu, the highest number since the HHSA began tracking the figures. At this point in 2014, 17 people had died.
Despite the spike in deaths, fewer active cases of the flu were reported last week -- almost 700 compared to 985 the week before. So far this year, 3,265 cases have been confirmed via laboratory testing, compared to slightly over 2,000 at this point last year.
"Influenza can be a deadly disease. Everyone should get a flu shot," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer. "If you have not done it, get vaccinated now. Flu activity in the region intensifies in January and February and typically lasts through the end of March or early April."
Healthcare workers are also urging people to get vaccinated as they contend with the measles outbreak.
Nearly 100 cases were reported in eight states from Michigan to Arizona and California. The cases are related to a couple of Disneyland visitors in December. Some reported cases also closed down the Sharp Rees Stealy Urgent Care Clinic in Rancho Bernardo in early January.
Health workers say to get vaccinated now for measles and the flu. The flu season intensifies in January and February and lasts through April. If you don't remember getting the measles vaccine, doctors can do a simple test or check your immunization records.
A Riverside County High School is having 70 students stay home for a week unless they get the measles vaccine.
The 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.