LONG BEACH (CBSLA) – As the flu epidemic ravages the Southland, the city of Long Beach announced its first flu death of the season for a person 65 years of age and under.
The Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services reported Tuesday that a patient in their 30s with underlying health issues had passed away after contracting the flu virus.
Between Oct. 1, 2017 – when the flu season began — and Jan. 13, the California Department of Public Health reported 74 flu deaths for people 65 and under. At the same time last year, there were 14 flu deaths.
The flu has left many hospital emergency rooms across the Southland overwhelmed with patients. Last week, Pomona Valley Hospital told CBS2 it turned an auditorium next to the ER into a six-bed unit to handle the overflow of patients.
“We’ve had such an overwhelming number of patients that we felt that a separate room would help us with our patient flow,” Dr. Ken Moore said.
Loma Linda University Medical Center set up a tent typically used for disasters to deal with the growing number of patients.
“We’ve actually overflowed pretty much every day so far,” said Dr. Adrian Cotton. “We’ve had about 150 patients total that have gone through the tent in the past two weeks.”
The epidemic is primarily due to the spike in the Influenza A strain (H3N2), which can cause a more severe illness and leads to more hospitalizations, especially in children and older adults.
Doctors say the flu season started in early November and is most likely peaking now. However, the CDC says people can expect the season to last for about three more months.
The CDC is recommending the flu vaccine for everyone over six months of age. Free vaccinations will be available Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at LBDHHS headquarters, located at 2525 Grand Ave.