California has seen such a bad run of the flu this season that pharmacies are running out of medicine, emergency rooms are overflowing, and the death toll is rapidly going up.
State health officials confirm that 27 people younger than 65 years old have died of flu since October – three times more than in 2016, San Francisco Gate reports. All regions are experiencing the same thing, authorities add.
At the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, for example, over 200 patients come in daily, most of them for flu cases. Dr. Wally Ghurabi, emergency room medical director, said,
The Northridge earthquake was the last time we saw over 200 patients.
He was referring to the 1994 natural disaster that killed dozens of California residents.
In San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, emergency rooms are so packed that ambulances are not able to unload patients right away, causing a delay in 911 responses, according to a spokesperson for the Riverside County Department of Public Health.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, some hospitals are limiting emergency room visits for patients younger than 16 years old, as children and teens can be more suscpetible to the flu.
Medical experts agree that this year’s flu season is worse than last year’s, and might reach its peak in February. Health officials predict that the flu vaccine may only be around 32% effective this year, and doctors say that the severity of this year’s cases is because people in California are catching a dangerous strain of influenza that the virus does not normally work to prevent against.
Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, Los Angeles County’s interim health officer, said, “It tends to cause more deaths and more hospitalizations than the other strains.”
For Californians who haven’t gotten the flu yet, health officials continue to recommend getting the vaccine, washing hands, and avoiding contact with anyone who is coughing, sneezing or has a runny nose.