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14-year-old girl is latest San Diego County flu death

14-year-old girl is latest San Diego County flu death
A vial of flu vaccine at a San Diego County public health center in 2018. (Hayne Palmour IV / San Diego Union-Tribune)

A 14-year-old girl is the region’s latest flu-related death, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.

Listed in the public health agency’s weekly influenza report, the teen is listed as having resided in central San Diego. According to the county, she died on Feb. 12, and there was no evidence of vaccination though there were other health conditions that likely contributed to her death.

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This is the youngest flu-related death in San Diego County announced so far for the 2018-19 flu year that started July 1.

The teen was among five additional deaths announced Wednesday in San Diego County, which included men ages 56 to 82. These deaths push the season total to 35.

There is no question that it’s a grim figure, but that number is significantly lower through the second week of February this winter than it was at the same point last winter, when 268 deaths had been reported in San Diego County by the same week, according to county records.

Though deaths, cases and emergency department usage numbers have been much lower this winter, the flu has visited more calamity on younger people than it usually does.

Scientists speculate that’s because the immune systems of younger people are less likely to have been exposed in childhood to H1N1, the form of the flu in widest circulation this season.

By comparison, people age 65 and older are much more likely to have suffered through an H1N1 infection in childhood, which researchers believe confers a lasting resistance to those particular types of the influenza virus.

So, although the flu has killed far fewer people this year, more than half have been younger than 65. That number was only about 13% last year when the H3N2 flu type created record numbers of cases and deaths and caused some local emergency departments to open triage tents in their parking lots.

Last week, 539 flu cases were reported to San Diego County, bringing the season total to 4,947. That’s only about a quarter of the 16,859 cases recorded last winter through the same week of the year and somewhat behind the prior three-year average of 7,771. According to San Diego County, 5% of local emergency patients were showing flu symptoms last week compared with 7% for the second week of February last year.

Sisson writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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