SD County flu cases drop, but deaths hit 57

Ed Hollingsworth looks at his wife Marian, reflected in the mirror, while sitting in an examination room at UC San Diego Medical Center's Moores Cancer Center, Jan. 16, 2020. He said he was wearing a mask because he came down with a cold and didn't want to infect other patients at the facility./Tarryn Mento.KPBS

The number of influenza deaths in San Diego County increased to 57 after seven more fatalities were reported last week, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced today.

The ages of the new flu deaths ranged from 60 to 89 years of age and all had underlying medical conditions.

A total of 1,548 lab-confirmed influenza cases were reported last week, compared to 1,689 cases the prior week. The continued decrease in flu cases is an indication that flu activity in the region is easing.

“While influenza cases have continued to decline, flu activity is still widespread in the region,” said Wilma J. Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “People should continue getting vaccinated and taking other preventive measures to avoid getting sick.”

The number of people showing up at local emergency departments with influenza-like symptoms has remained steady at 8% for several weeks.

The County Health and Human Services Agency publishes the Influenza Watchweekly report, which tracks key flu indicators and summarizes influenza surveillance in the region.

For the week ending Feb. 8, 2020, the report shows the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 8% of all visits (compared to 8% the previous week).
  • Total influenza deaths to date: 57 (compared to 30 at this time last season).
  • Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 15,097 (compared to 4,414 last season).

San Diego hospitals show mixed record in vaccination rates

In other local flu-related news, A KPBS review of state records shows more than 100,000 California hospital employees who help care for the sick are not receiving a vaccine against a common illness.

Flu season is especially worrisome because the illness can cause severe complications for the immunocompromised like Hollingsworth or others with underlying health conditions. While researchers are rushing to create a novel coronavirus vaccine amid a global health emergency, one already exists for influenza. Yet a KPBS review of state records shows more than 100,000 California hospital employees who help care for the sick are still not receiving it.

The recently released data from last flu season show five San Diego hospitals are falling short of the state’s goals. The county’s lowest-ranking facility — Alvarado Hospital Medical Center — reported 78% of medical staff received the vaccination over the annual period that stretched from October 2018 to March 2019.

Flu Vaccination Coverage in California Hospitals

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