LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — It’s flu season, but doctors want to alert the public that it’s not too late to get a flu shot.

The number of people visiting ERs is climbing, and so are flu-related deaths.

That is why doctors are encouraging people to get the flu vaccine — and soon.

“The flu season is on us,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser of LA County Health.

 

He says there have been three-dozen flu-related deaths this year. At this time last year, there were 13 — a 130 percent increase.

“I believe the numbers. I know that we’re setting records. I know that we’re filling ERs,” says Dr. James McKinnell, who works at Torrance Memorial Medical Center.

“This is the biggest number of patients I’ve seen in an influenza season that I’ve seen in a long time,” he said.

The doctor said it may because this flu season has seen three or four strains of the flu at the same time.

“Whereas in years past, it may be one strain in November, one strain in December — we’re getting all of them, all at once,” McKinnell said.

Doctors recommend several steps to avoid getting sick.
– Washing your hands.
– Covering your cough.
– Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands.
– And, if you’re sick, stay home.

If you do get the flu, get Tamiflu, says McKinnell.

“Tamiflu is our most reliable treatment.” he says.

Due to the number of cases, Tamiflu has been flying off the shelves.

“There have been shortages in Los Angeles,” McKinnell says.

But Gunzenhauser says it’s only a short-term shortage.

“We’ve been assured there’s adequate supplies,” Gunzebhauser says.

The best bet, even if it’s not 100 percent effective, is still the flu vaccine.

“We’re not at the point where we have a perfect vaccine,” McKinnell says.

He said getting a flu vaccine is like choosing to wear a seat belt.

“A seat belt won’t save you from all accidents, but you should wear it. The influenza vaccine is very important.”

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