California hospitals have been compared to a war zone with emergency tents used for major disasters set up in parking lots to treat patients suffering from this year’s deadly flu outbreak.
Scores of overcrowded and understaffed facilities are treating patients in hallways, turning storage closets into hospital rooms and cancelling surgeries to have more staff to tend to flu patients.
The flu is devastating 49 states with Alabama declaring a State of Emergency, Boston hospitals pumping Gatorade through stomach tubes and hospitals in Texas and Minnesota turning patients away.
This year’s outbreak is on track to becoming one of the worst flu seasons in recent history due to a deadly strand that has so far killed 85 adults and 20 children nationwide as the numbers continue to climb.
A hospital in Loma Linda, California, along with several others have set up ‘surge tents’ in their parking lots to treat the influx of patients sick with the flu
Health officials said the flu has killed more than 40 people under the age of 65 in California. Pictured is one of the tents at Palomar Medical Center
The tents at Loma Linda Medical Center were only expected to be up for a few days but have remained for nearly three weeks due to the surge of patients
Flu season officially begins in October but this year’s particularly dangerous strain, H3N2, has come relatively early and is expected to last until May.
Health officials are urging everyone to get their flu shot and say it is not too late to protect yourself from the virus.
More strains of the virus will emerge in the next two months along with the already widespread H3N2 strain dubbed the ‘Aussie flu’ that killed hundreds in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC has also felt the wrath of the virus and closed their headquarters in Atlanta due to weather and illness.
In my career, I’ve never seen anything like this
Hospitals in California have flown in nurses from out of state and are cancelling scheduled surgeries so staff can tend to flu patients.
While Palomar Health Center in Escondido is treating patients in the hallways, Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose has cleared out a storage area to make room.
Michelle Gunnett, Director of Emergency Services at Palomar Health Center told Daily Mail Online: ‘We were the first in San Diego County to set up the tent and we had it for 8 days but it just wasn’t patients we could see in a tent-like setting.’
She added that if the flu progresses, they may need to use them again in order to take pressure of the emergency room.
After the new year Loma Linda University Medical Center set up tents in their emergency room parking lot to treat flu patients.
Connie Cunningham, Executive Director of Emergency Services at the hospital, told the Los Angeles Times that she only expected the tents to be up for a few days but nearly three weeks later staff are treating 60 more patients a day than usual.
‘In my career, I’ve never seen anything like this,’ she said.
Last week the emergency room at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica turned away patients when more than 200 people came in reporting flu-like symptoms.
Doctors from the hospital said they had not seen emergency rooms this crowded since the 1994 Northridge earthquake that killed 57.
WHAT ARE THE FLU STRAINS HITTING THE US THIS YEAR?
There are many different types of flu circulating around the world, but four main types are being seen, or are set to emerge, in America this winter.
H3N2 – Dubbed ‘Aussie flu’ after it struck Australia hard last winter, this strain is more likely to affect the elderly, who do not respond well to the current vaccine. This is one of the most common strains seen so far this winter and the same one that made 2014 the worst flu-season in recent history.
H1N1 – This strain – known as ‘swine flu’ – is generally more likely to hit children, who respond well to vaccination. This has been seen nearly as often as H3N2 so far this year. In the past it was only commonly caught from pigs, but that changed in 2009 when it started spreading rapidly among humans in a major global pandemic.
B / Yamagata – This is known as ‘Japanese flu’. Only people who received the ‘four strain’ vaccine – which is being slowly rolled out after it was introduced for the first time this winter – are protected against the Yamagata strain. Those who received the normal ‘three strain’ vaccine are not protected.
B / Victoria– This strain is vaccinated against in the normal ‘three strain’ vaccine, but has hardly appeared so far this winter, with just four confirmed cases.
This isn’t the only medical center that has asked sick visitors to go home in order to prevent the spread of the disease.
Hospitals nationwide, including Minnesota, Texas and California are turning young children away because they are the least likely to show symptoms of the flu.
California has so far reported 40 deaths from the flu in patients under 65, while this time last year they had only reported nine deaths.
The virus has been killing victims within days of showing symptoms including mother-of-three marathon runner from California, Katie Oxley Thomas, 40, who died of the flu just 48 hours after falling ill.
Pharmacies have been scrambling to restock their shelves with Tamiflu due to the increase in demand.
Nihar Mandavia, a pharmacist who owns Druggist Pharmacy in Laguna Niguel, California, told Daily Mail Online that his pharmacy has been selling an average of 30 Tamiflu per day.
‘Usually during flu season we sell maybe one a day,’ he said.
There is also a nationwide shortage of IV bags used to administer vital fluids due to a major production facility in Puerto Rico being shattered by Hurricane Maria in September.
At Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, patients have been pumped with Gatorade through a stomach tube as a replacement for the IV.
The manufacturing plant has reopened but is not expected to produce enough IV bags to supply the US until April.
The lack of supplies and tents used to treat patients is akin to that of war zones during battle.
A map published by the CDC on January 6 shows the severity on the flu across the US
The virus is now widespread in 49 states and has hit California particularly hard
Pictured is Torrey Jewett (left) as she looks on as her roommate Donnie Cardenas (right) who is recovering from the flu at Palomar Medical Center in California
Alabama has declared a State of Public Health emergency with half of hospitals in the state at 90 percent capacity, while others are full or overcapacity.
‘We have a crisis situation going on with numbers of patients infected by influenza in Alabama,’ Acting State Health Officer Scott Harris said in a Friday press conference. ‘We are seeing very large numbers, and that’s particularly been true for the last two to three weeks.’
This season the flu has killed at least 20 children and more than 85 adults in the US, according to CDC reports.
The rate of hospitalizations almost doubled in two weeks, leaving hospitals overcrowded, understaffed and turning some patients away.
Experts warn that infants and elderly people are the most vulnerable. The flu is now widespread in more than 46 states as the outbreak reaches his peak, making it one of the worse flu seasons in years.
It is especially dangerous because while most people suffering from the flu experience fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches and fatigue, not all those infected show symptoms.
Therefore, health professionals urge everyone to wash their hands and avoid close contact with people even if they do not appear to be infected.
THE AMERICAN VICTIMS WHO DIED OF THE FLU THIS SEASON
Jonah Smith, 17, died December 29, 2017, when his heart stopped beating in the backseat of his sister’s car.
His family said he showed no flu-like symptoms except he had complained of a backache, but continued to go to work at a fast-food restaurant and see friends.
After his death, doctors confirmed that the teen from Arizona had the flu and pneumonia and believe he may have suffered from an underlying medical condition, though he was never known to have one.
Kyler Baughmen, 21, became sick on December 23, 2017, with a mild cough and runny nose.
He celebrated Christmas and went back to work December 26, but the following day was rushed to the hospital.
He died on December 28 from kidney failure due to septic shock caused by the flu.
Katie Oxley Thomas, 40, of San Jose, California, died of the flu just 48 hours of falling ill.
The mother-of-three and marathon runner’s condition declined so quickly that she was moved to intensive care, placed on life support and died all in the span of 15 hours on January 4, 2018.
Her family said she had received her flu shot before getting sick.
Jenny Ching, 51, went to the hospital in Massachusetts with flu-like symptoms.
After being diagnosed with the flu she developed an infection and pneumonia.
The mother-of-two died on January 6, 2018, just a week after being diagnosed.
Jonah Rieben, four, died on January 6, 2018, just hours after first showing symptoms, making him the first child to die from the flu in Ohio this season.
The boy who loved to play with his 16 adoptive siblings was born with Noonan syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes heart defects and developmental delays. Doctors are still investigating if his condition contributed to his death.
Jonah’s older brother, who also suffers from a disorder, is in the hospital with a severe case of the flu.
Nico Mallozzi, 10, of New Canaan in Connecticut, had been sick and bed-bound all weekend during the hockey tournament in Buffalo, New York, forcing him to miss every game.
Eventually, he was hospitalized and diagnosed with Influenza B, which had developed into pneumonia and caused sepsis.
He died on Sunday January 14, 2018, in a Buffalo hospital.