SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Four influenza-related deaths were reported to the county Health and Human Services Agency last week, bringing the "flu season'' toll to 15, area health officials announced Wednesday.
The 15 patients who died were between the ages of 41 and 95, and all but three had pre-existing medical conditions, according to the county HHSA.
While the number of flu deaths has climbed steadily over the past month, the total pales compared to this time last year, when 83 people had died in San Diego County.
Health officials also reported that 969 cases of the flu were confirmed by laboratory testing last week, the most in a single week this year.
"Influenza activity in the region continues to be widespread and, unfortunately, four more people succumbed to the disease,'' said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "The flu can be very unpredictable. People should get vaccinated and take other preventive measures to avoid getting sick."
So far this year, more than 3,600 cases of influenza have been reported. That compares to over 6,100 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. 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.