Flu activity is on the rise in California and pharmacies experience medication shortages. Emergency rooms are full and the death toll is on the rise.
Health officials register 27 deaths of people younger than 65. These statistics are much higher than last years numbers when the state only had 3 deaths within this age group. It is an unexpected spike and based on recent patient numbers, medical professionals across the state expect the numbers to continue to rise.
Emergency rooms overfill with patients and most with flu symptoms, and health officials worry as the flu season is just beginning and already peaking earlier than usual. They are recommending people go out and get a flu shot as it is not too late.
Many California doctors agree that this season the surge has been unusual and rates exceed that of last year, one of the worst flu seasons in ten years.
The surge affects all regions of the state, state health officials. Emergency rooms are crowded and ambulances are working hard to meet the need which means there is a wait for incoming calls.
A serious concern is that the influenza strain forcing its way across the nation, known as H3N2, is resistant to the flu vaccine. National health officials believe the vaccine may only have a 32% effectivity rate on this particular strain which implies that this flu season could be more severe. Experts recommend people take care as the H3N2 is a singularly dangerous strain of the flu, and it currently causes more deaths and hospitalizations.
The concern is for older patients who risk more severe symptoms and even pneumonia. The number of fatalities is not a reliable indication as it only includes people younger than 65. The real toll will be for the elderly who are more likely to fall ill. Medical personnel in ER rooms say that over half the patients in the ER present flu-related problems. And elderly people in their 70s and 80s are often so sick, they need to be kept for observation.
Doctors prescribe flu medications for all cases, but they say the drug is hard to find because of the surge in illness. Pharmacies are either low in stock or temporarily out.
Manufacturers of flu medications like Tamiflu say there is no shortage of production, nor stock on national levels, but pharmacies in California experience a temporary shortage due to the surge of flu cases.