The H3N2 flu virus is known as the hospitalizer. Here’s why.
By Susan Abram
Stay home. Don’t go to work. Keep sick children out of school.
That’s some of the stern advice Los Angeles County health officials offered on Wednesday to people and their loved ones suffering from coughs, sneezes, aches and fevers as a result of the flu circulating at elevated levels throughout the region. Health officials also continued to urge the public to get vaccinated.
The advice came a day after a state epidemiologist told reporters that this could be the worst influenza season since 2009, when the H1N1 or Swine flu pandamic killed 12,469 people nationwide.
At a news conference at their downtown Los Angeles office, county public health officials said it was not too late to get the flu vaccine, since they said it perfectly protects against three of four of the strains circulating. They also said that because the flu season started a month earlier than usual and its peak has yet to be identified, the bug could circulate for a longer period of time.
“We’ve seen an elevation in the number of outbreaks that have been reported to us from nursing homes and other congregate living facilities,” said Dr. Sharon Balter, director of acute communicable disease control for Los Angeles County. “All this points to an earlier and somewhat more severe flu season this year than last year.”
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The numbers tell the story best, Balter added:
•There have 36 deaths in Los Angeles County, compared to 17 last year. Those figures do not include Pasadena and Long Beach, which have their own health departments. Both departments have reported no deaths so far this season.
•The number of emergency department visits of people complaining of flu like symptoms is 130 percent higher compared to the same time last year.