Packed emergency rooms, deaths as flu hits California hard

Henrietta Strickland
January 14, 2018

And some hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area are limiting visitors under the age of 16 as a precaution, since young people can be more vulnerable to effects of the flu.

The agency says there have been 54 flu-related deaths, 162 people have been admitted to intensive care units and the number of hospitalizations is "considerably elevated" over the same period in the last two flu seasons.

"Flu is everywhere in the USA right now", Dr Dan Jernigan, director of the influenza division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters on a conference call.

"The season started early and it is probably peaking right now", he said, but cautioned that there are still 11 to 13 more weeks of flu to come.

Not only that, but "there is also a rapid rise in the number of people being hospitalized for laboratory-confirmed flu", Jernigan said.

Unfortunately, the end of this flu season is nowhere in sight. That is better than the 10 percent effectiveness reported in Australia, which has its flu season before the United States does and often predicts what will happen in this country.

To make matters worse, the vaccine may only be about 30 percent effective against that strain.

The strain, known as H3N2, mutates, making it hard to match what's in the vaccine to the virus circulating in the community, Kendall said.

There are indications that the H1N1 virus, which caused the 2009-2010 swine flu pandemic but is now a regular human flu virus, is also starting to show up, Jernigan said. Some states that have already had outbreaks of H3N2 are beginning to see cases of H1N1.

The vaccine may be less effective against H3N2 strains because it's manufactured in chicken eggs, which some recent research has shown interact with H3 strains, making them less like the circulating strain and therefore less effective.

So far, influenza B strains have not yet appeared, and Jernigan said it was not too late for people who have not been immunized to benefit from a flu shot.

It says 28 of those patients became ill even though they had been vaccinated.

"While our flu vaccine is far from flawless, it is still the best defense we have", Fitzgerald says.

At UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, the emergency room saw more than 200 patients on at least one day, mostly because of the flu.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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