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Could the Flu Season Get Any Worse?

Phoebe Reiter, Staff Writer

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Within the last few weeks, in California and 31 other states, there has been an influenza outbreak, which has resulted in over a hundred deaths within California. The exact number is unknown, as it continues to grow. The flu should not be taken lightly, and it is advised that those severely ill go to the hospital. The flu is lethal to not only adults but also children, as there have already been 30 deaths, according to released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There has been a spike in the number of children under five being hospitalized, and an estimated 58% had other health conditions such as asthma, which places younger children with such conditions at risk.

Currently, overcrowded hospitals have set up tents in order to provide care for victims. Urgent care centers are equally crowded, and Dr. Alfred Tallia, a professor and chair of family medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in New Jersey, explains that his hospital is having a hard time managing the flood of patients. There is a shortage of vaccines due to the overwhelming demand, a problem that is speculated to have been caused by relying on only one producer. A lack of Tamiflu, an antiviral drug that can treat or prevent influenza, has the potential to make the flu season significantly worse.

In the past, statistics show that between 80 and 85% of children who have died from the flu did not have a vaccine, as reported by the CDC, or the Centers for Disease Control. Current vaccines have been estimated to be 20-30% effective due to the strain of the virus being H3N2, as stated by Dr. Dan Jernigan, the director of the influenza division at the CDC. Jernigan adds that the vaccine, however, can lessen the severity of the flu. Although the vaccine appears to be futile, it does have benefits that could potentially save lives.

From 2014 to 2015, the H3N2 strain was also the main perpetrator, and that season resulted in “an estimated 35.6 million cases [of the flu], 710,000 hospitalizations, and 56,000 deaths,” as mentioned by Jernigan. There is a chance that this season will have higher numbers- let us hope that it will not.

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Could the Flu Season Get Any Worse?