California flu season deadliest in a decade
Every year, the flu virus evolves, and this year’s flu season is proving to be one of the most deadly in recent years.
“This appears to be one of the worst seasons we’ve had in the last 10 years,” state epidemiologist Dr. Gil Chavez said in a call with Los Angeles Times reporters. “We’re early, and we’re trending up.”
San Jose resident Katie Oxley Thomas died Jan. 4 after being diagnosed with the common flu on Jan.2.
The active mother of three was initially sent home from the hospital after doctors ruled the symptoms as a sickness she just needed to “ride out.”
“They sent her home,” husband Jim Collins said. “They said, ‘You have the flu. You just have to ride it out.’”
According to KTVU News, Thomas is one of “at least 42 people younger than 65 have died this flu season, five of them in Santa Clara County.”
Aiding the high death rate is the apparent inefficiency of this year’s flu vaccine. According to health care providers, the vaccine is only 10 to 30 percent effective, but most clinics and hospitals are still running out.
“There have been times we’ve had two or three times the number of patients we have space for,” Dr. David Feldman of Good Samaritan Hospital said. “For a 10-day period around Christmas, we were setting a new record every day.”
Other hospitals around the Bay Area are feeling the same sort of impact.
Dr. Daniel Shin of El Camino Hospital in Mountain View said, “All the beds are taken. The emergency room is full. The waiting room is full. We have tracked the number of flu patients admitted compared to last year and the number almost doubled.”
Flu-reducing medication such as Tamiflu is in high demand, and, as a result, some drugstores cannot fill the prescriptions.
According to the Los Angeles Times, CVS spokeswoman Amy Lanctot said that an increased demand for Tamiflu in California may have led to some stores being temporarily out of stock.
While the flu season is currently underway, there are still ways to protect oneself against the virus.
Despite its low effectiveness, patients are still encouraged to get their flu vaccines.
“Even if you’re healthy, the downside of getting the flu vaccine is so low — it’s relatively inexpensive. At the worst you’ll have a sore arm,” Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, L.A. County’s interim health officer, said.
Additionally, the flu virus is most contagious one day before symptoms develop, so people should wash their hands often and avoid close contact with anyone coughing or sneezing.