The Age-Old Flu: Back in Town with a Deadly Mission

By: Dominic Palosz ’18

In certain places, documented cases of flu and influenza like symptoms in 2017-2018 (red) has become one of the deadliest epidemics in California history. (Graph by Kansas Department of Health)

During a normal flu season, around thirty-five thousand people die each year in the United States, but this year may alter that number and not in a good way.

The current flu season is currently on track to becoming one of the worst seasons in a decade and one of the deadliest in California’s history.

A strain of Influenza A, or H3N2, has begun making rounds and has already killed 127 people younger than 65 in California. In one week, 30 people died in Los Angeles which is almost a third of the 91 total deaths in 2016-2017 due to flu last year (USA Today).

Emergency Rooms are being completely filled and are often even over capacity. It has gotten to the point where hospitals are putting up surge tents outside. Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz had recently even re-introduced rules that weren’t used since 2009’s swine flu epidemic such as patients only being allowed one visitor at a time. Despite this effort, the hospital is treating five times the number of flu patients they normally see.

Registered Nurse Camille Brzozowska, who works Kaiser Permanente in Woodland Hills said, “It has been absolute madness in the emergency room over the last few weeks. Last year, the most people I had seen in the waiting room at one time was perhaps half a room with only half wearing facemasks. Now, I see entire rooms of people sitting on both the chairs and floors with nearly all of them wearing face masks just waiting to be treated. A lot of them are here for nine to twelve hours sometimes, just waiting to be treated.”

While this is just one hospital’s perspective into their waiting room situation, many hospitals across the state are having to open surge tents outside the hospitals for the overflow patients to wait.

Normally, those looking to protect themselves from the flu get the vaccination at their local hospital and then are prescribed with antibiotics if they feel any symptoms. However, the vaccination has only a 30% chance of actually working due to age and health factors, so prescriptions are often needed, but they too are beginning to disappear off shelves.

B&B Pharmacy in Yorba Linda, California reported that in this flu season alone, they have sold Tamiflu, the most prescribed antibiotic, to 200 patients in comparison to a typical 10 in previous flu seasons.

Many people think to themselves, “Oh, this is just another common flu. This can’t ever happen to me!” This year is completely different.

Unless spending a dozen hours in the ER sounds like fun to you, please go to your nearest flu shot clinic as soon as possible and get vaccinated! It takes less than five minutes of your day to potentially save your life or someone’s that you love!



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