As this year’s flu season sweeps the nation, it is hitting hard and people are dying. This flu season, Influenza A (H3N2) appears to be the most dominant strain in the United States.
Here in California, the news is not good. Since October, already 27 residents under the age of 65 have succumbed to the illness compared to four reported during the same period last year and some hospitals are so overwhelmed with flu patients they have resorted to setting up tents to accommodate the overflow. As of this report, though that was not the case in the inland region, a triage tent was recently set-up to accommodate an overflow of flu patients at a hospital in the San Diego area.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that already, 41,000 people nationally have experienced bouts of flu. The agency recommended for this flu season, citizens should use the flu shot (inactivated influenza vaccine) or the recombinant influenza vaccine. The agency cautions not to use the nasal spray flu vaccine again this season—only injectable flu shots are recommended.
Health officials noted, “The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women, and people with certain long-term health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.”
The CDC also implemented a few new strategies this year. Among them, flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses, pregnant women may receive any licensed, recommended, and age-appropriate flu vaccine, new flu vaccines were licensed, and age recommendations were adjusted for two existing flu vaccine protocols.
According to the CDC, there are many different flu viruses and they are constantly changing. The nation’s flu vaccines are reviewed annually and updated as needed to match circulating flu viruses. Also, according to the agency, “This year’s flu vaccines protect against the three or four viruses (depending on vaccine) that research suggests will be most common.”
This year’s virus is causing extremely high fevers and can be deadly, especially to young people and the elderly. So far, nearly three times as many cases have been reported to the CDC this year than during the same period last year.
In Riverside County, one child succumbed to the virus in December, at least three deaths have already been reported in Los Angeles County, and Orange County has reported as many as four deaths. Keep in mind, California only reports flu deaths of those under the age of 65.
The 2017-18 flu season will not reach its peak until February. Health officials in Riverside and San Bernardino County warned during a press conference late last week, that although the region is not there yet, this year, flu is reaching epidemic levels in the area. They stressed how the region has not faced such a severe level of flu this early in the flu season for at least 15 years. The outbreak has extended emergency room wait times and stressed ambulance service response times.
Inland region public health officials urged residents to get their flu vaccinations as soon as possible as the flu season is about to reach its peak and vaccines need two weeks to build up an individual’s immunity.