Over 700 students infected with upper respiratory illness at Patrick Henry High

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – San Diego County health officials were investigating an outbreak of respiratory and flu-like symptoms reported among a large number of students at Patrick Henry High School, it was announced today.

It is too early to determine the cause of the suspected outbreak at the high school as test results are pending, according to San Diego County Public Health Services.

“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 Dr. Cameron Kaiser, 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,” he added.

The county reports that no hospitalizations have yet been linked to the illness investigation at the school, but 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, a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. The county is evaluating the possibility of other schools reporting similar outbreaks.

San Diego County reported a total of 304 lab-confirmed influenza cases 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 200 cases of the flu.

The flu shot, as well as COVID-19 primary dose vaccines and bivalent boosters, are widely available across the region. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated against both viruses every year.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for immunity to develop.

The CDC also indicates people 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.

Final data for the 2021-22 flu season is still pending and will be available later this year. During the 2020-21 flu season, 848 influenza cases were reported in San Diego, including two deaths. During the 2019-20 flu season, more than 20,700 flu cases were reported and 108 San Diegans died from influenza.

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