Flu Cases Spike in California, Bringing Medicine Shortages, Packed ERs and a Rising Death Toll

So many people have fallen sick with influenza in California that pharmacies have run out of flu medicines, emergency rooms are packed, and the death toll is rising higher than in previous years.

Adriana Gudinoperez, of Garden Grove, a patient with flu symptoms, looks at a nurse after being given ibuprofen in the emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital in Orange on Friday. (Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Adriana Gudinoperez, of Garden Grove, a patient with flu symptoms, looks at a nurse after being given ibuprofen in the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange on Friday. (Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)


Health officials said Friday that 27 people younger than 65 have died of the flu in California since October, compared with three at the same time last year. Nationwide and in California, flu activity spiked sharply in late December and continues to grow.

The emergency room at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica typically treats about 140 patients a day, but at least one day this week had more than 200 patients — mostly because of the flu, said the ER’s medical director, Dr. Wally Ghurabi.

“The Northridge earthquake was the last time we saw over 200 patients,” Ghurabi said.
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(Source: California Department of Public Health. Graphics reporting by Soumya Karlamangla)

(Source: California Department of Public Health. Graphics reporting by Soumya Karlamangla)