Eight more people died of influenza-related causes last week in San Diego County, bringing the local ``flu season'' toll to 20, the county Health and Human Services Agency reported Wednesday.
The victims have ranged in age from 32 to 91 years and all had underlying medical conditions or were elderly, according to the HHSA.
Last year, 65 flu-related deaths were reported by the county. At this point in 2013, 19 have died.
The HHSA reported that 609 cases of influenza were reported last week, bringing the season total to 2,620.
``The number of lab-confirmed influenza cases remains elevated but it appears to be at a plateau,'' said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. ``It's important to continue taking preventive measures to avoid getting sick, including getting vaccinated.''
County health officials said that, compared to last season, a significantly higher proportion of young and middle-aged adults are coming down with the flu, which is expected given the high prevalence of the H1N1 strain of the illness.
More people have required intensive care for influenza at hospitals this season, with 137 cases reported, compared to 116 for all of last season.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone six-months and older get a flu vaccine every year. The vaccine is especially important for people who are at higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu, including people with certain medical conditions, pregnant women, and people 65 years and older.
The flu vaccine offers protection against the Pandemic H1N1, Influenza A H3N2 and Influenza B strains. It takes about two weeks for immunity to develop after getting vaccinated.
The flu vaccine is available at doctors' offices and retail pharmacies.
Those without medical insurance can go to a county public health center to get
vaccinated. A list of locations is available online at www.sdiz.org or by calling 2-1-1.
Health officials suggest that in addition to getting vaccinated, people should wash their hands thoroughly and often, use hand sanitizers and avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth. They should also stay away from ill people, clean commonly touched surfaces and remain home when sick.