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Flu-related deaths in California continue to rise, making it among ‘worst seasons’ in 10 years

By in Press Enterprise on January 9, 2018

By Susan Abram

Flu-related deaths are climbing across California, where 27 people under the age of 65 have died, state officials said Tuesday during a news conference.

The number may be much higher, however, since the state does not record the death rate among senior adults 65 and older, said Dr. Gil Chavez, state epidemiologist for the California Department of Public Health.

“We are still early in the season, but several indicators are worsening,” said Dr. James Watt, Chief, Division of Communicable Disease Control Center for Infectious Diseases California Department of Public Health. He said the season began in November, a month earlier than usual, and the levels of hospitalizations and deaths present so far this season are more typical of a peak.

Watt said it’s possible the state is seeing higher number of deaths now, compared to the same time in past seasons, but added the earlier-than-typical start to the flu season could mean an earlier end.

Chavez said most people who died were adults, and 70 percent were not vaccinated.

“This appears to be one of the worst seasons we’ve had in 10 years,” Chavez said. “’But we won’t know until it’s over.”

The news comes as hospitals from Los Angeles to Orange counties and throughout the Inland Empire are seeing patients crowd their emergency departments in high numbers.

RELATED STORY: Flu’s death toll in LA County climbs as waves of patients swamp hospitals, clinics

In addition, the antiviral Tamiflu is in short supply across the Southland. Public health officials in Los Angeles County issued an alert last week that said concerns about shortages are rising among staff at some skilled nursing facilities.

Chavez said the state is monitoring the supplies and that manufacturers expect to start distributing more.

“It is our understanding the shortages of medications are because of demand,” Chavez said. “As of yesterday we’ve been in contact […]    

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