By Katie Cadiao, County of San Diego Communications Office
Photo via Shutterstock
October 12, 2022 (San Diego) - San Diego County Public Health Services is investigating a large, suspected outbreak of respiratory and flu-like symptoms reported among students at Patrick Henry High School.
Although the County reports daily several hundred COVID-19 cases, and is already seeing a rapid and early start to flu season, it is too early to determine the cause of the suspected outbreak at Patrick Henry High School as test results are pending.
So far, no hospitalizations have been linked to the illness investigation at Patrick Henry High School. Local hospitals, including Rady Children’s Hospital, have noted a recent increase in emergency room visits due to flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, which is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. The County is evaluating the possibility of other schools reporting similar outbreaks.
“We are coordinating with local school districts and are checking with other school campuses to try and figure out why so many students have been affected so suddenly,” said Cameron Kaiser, M.D., M.P.H., County deputy public health officer. “Unfortunately, we anticipated this would be a rough influenza season, and alongside COVID-19 other respiratory viruses are also making a rapid comeback. If you haven’t already, now is the time to get your flu and COVID-19 shots to gain the extra protections afforded by the vaccines.”
A total of 304 lab-confirmed influenza cases were reported last week, bringing the total for the season that started on July 3 to 1,082. At the same time last year, the County had reported only 200 influenza cases.
The flu shot, as well as COVID-19 primary dose vaccines and bivalent boosters are widely available across the region. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated against both viruses every year.
Vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk of developing complications from the flu and COVID-19. They include:
- People with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, and lung disease, even if symptoms are under control
- Pregnant women
- People aged 65 years and older
- People who live with or care for others who are at higher risk
It takes about two weeks after vaccination for immunity to develop. The CDC also indicates you can get a flu and COVID-19 vaccination at the same time, including a booster dose. The COVID-19 vaccine does not work against influenza and vice versa.
The influenza vaccine is available at doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies and is covered by medical insurance. People with no health care coverage can get vaccinated at one of the County’s six public health centers or a local community clinic. To find the nearest location, visit the County’s Flu Vaccine Locations page or call 2-1-1 San Diego.
In addition to getting vaccinated, people should also do the following to avoid getting sick:
- Wash hands thoroughly and often;
- Use hand sanitizers, if unable to wash hands;
- Stay away from sick people;
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth;
- Clean commonly touched surfaces; and
- If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others.
The final data for the 2021-2022 flu season is still pending and will be available later this year. During the 2020-2021 flu season, a total of 848 influenza cases were reported in San Diego, including two deaths. During the 2019-2020 flu season, more than 20,700 flu cases were reported and 108 San Diegans died from influenza.