County Records Second-Highest Number of Flu-Related Deaths

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September 23, 2011 | 9:47am

Last season, there were 24 influenza-related deaths in San Diego County, the second highest total ever reported.

The record was established during the 2009-10 season—the height of H1N1—when 58 flu-related deaths were reported locally. Prior to that, the highest number of influenza deaths—22—was reported during the 2003-04 flu season.

“Influenza can be a serious and deadly disease; especially for the elderly and young infants, as well as for people with chronic conditions like heart disease or diabetes,” said Eric McDonald, M.D., M.P.H., County Deputy Public Health Officer. “The best protection against the flu is getting vaccinated.”
The vaccine is available throughout San Diego County at doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies. County public health centers have flu vaccine available for children and for adults with no medical insurance. For a list of locations, visit www.sdiz.org or call 2-1-1.

This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that people 6 months and older get vaccinated; two doses are recommended for children 6 months through 8 years if this is their first time getting the flu vaccine. The doses are to be given four weeks apart.
According to the CDC, more than 170 million flu doses have been distributed across the country. The vaccine is especially recommended for people at higher risk of developing complications from the flu: pregnant women, children under 5, people 50 and older, those with chronic medical conditions and people in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

For the past eight years, the San Diego Black Nurses Association, the County’s Health and Human Services Agency, the San Diego Immunization Coalition, and AARP have organized a community influenza clinic to kick off each year’s vaccination campaign to keep people healthy, a goal of the County’s Live Well, San Diego! initiative. This year’s kickoff event was held today.

“Since 2003, we have given flu shots to the underserved in the southeastern community of San Diego,” said Syvera Hardy, R.N., Public Relations Chair for San Diego Black Nurses Association. “It makes it convenient for those without transportation, especially seniors, to get to the clinic and to get a no-cost shot.”

Influenza, regardless of what strain it is, sickens millions and contributes to the death of thousands of people every year. It’s estimated that an average of 30,000 individuals die nationwide every year from the flu.

In addition to getting vaccinated, there other things people can do to avoid getting the flu.

“Simple steps work to reduce your risk for the flu: wash your hands thoroughly and often, or use hand sanitizers; stay away from sick people; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; and routinely clean commonly touched surfaces,” added McDonald. “Also, if you are sick, you should stay home and avoid contact with others.”