womens knee high timberland boots Flu death count reaches 30 in Ventura County
Flu viruses are quick change artists. They constantly mutate, and those frequent changes make it hard for our bodies to recognize and fend off the virus. The animation explains why we need a new flu vaccine every year. (Jan. 17)Victor Araoz, RN, gives a flu shot at the Las Islas Family Medical Group in Oxnard.(Photo: CHUCK KIRMAN/THE STAR)Buy PhotoA flu season that has packed emergency rooms and caused ambulances to be sent to less congested hospitals has contributed to at least 30 deaths in Ventura County.
The fatalities are by the far the most in at least a decade for Ventura County. They are double the 15 deaths during the swine flu outbreak that started in 2009, according to Ventura County public health records.
“I can’t remember a season with more deaths,” said Dr. Robert Levin, Ventura County’s public health officer for 19 years. He noted that the most common strain is still H3N2 influenza A, known for causing more severe symptoms and increased fatalities. But he also said a rising number of influenza B cases is being reported in recent weeks.
Read more: State officials say flu season could prove to be one of the worst in years
In some corners of the county, hospitals and doctors say the flood of cases that started in late December may be tapering off. A Thousand Oaks pediatrician reported that his flu cases have dropped 20 to 30 percent since the peak just after New Year’s Day.
Officials at both Los Robles Hospital Medical Center in Thousand Oaks and Adventist Health Simi Valley reported emergency room numbers have begun to decline.
Levin said he has not yet seen solid evidence that the flu is diminishing.
“Most seasons are two weeks,” he said of the peak period when flu is at its highest level. “We’ve already seen four weeks.”
Scientists hope they finally closing in on stronger flu shots to boost much needed protection against ordinary winter influenza and guard against future pandemics at the same time (Jan. 17)Dr. Catarina Castaneda said the number of peoplewith flu and cold symptoms coming to Las Islas Urgent Care Center in Oxnard rises almost daily. She said peopleare rarely tested for flu because of delays in getting results, and instead are treated based on their symptoms.
Levin pushed people to get vaccinated, noting that the vaccine covers influenza A and B viruses. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials project the vaccine is about 30 percent effective in blocking H3N2. Levin said the vaccine can still reduce the chance of severesymptoms and hospitalizations.
Some large pharmacies reported Wednesday that they have run out of the flu vaccine, including a CVS store in Camarillo that said its supply was depleted about a month ago. Some other large stores and independent pharmacies said they still have the vaccine.
The elderly are being hit hardest. A dozen nursing homes, assisted care living centers and other care facilities have reported flu outbreaks across the county so far this season.
Of the 30 deaths so far in Ventura County, only five of the victims were younger than 65. The majoritywere 75 and older,
with several in their 90s, according to county records. The youngest person was in his or her mid 50s.
Levin said the high fatality rate appears linked to the severity of theH3N2 strain.
“It’s mostly that it’s just a more deadly virus,” he said.
The flood of people with high fever, trouble breathing and similarly severe symptoms pushed emergency rooms to full volumes through parts of December and January, meaning ambulances were routinely diverted to other hospitals.
In December, hospitals in Ventura County were on diversion for a combined total of 648 hours and49 minutes. Ambulance patients who needed emergency room or intensive care treatment were sent to less crowded hospitals in the county.
For the first three weeks of January, that total was even higher, with hospitals diverting ambulances for emergency room and intensive care unit patients for a combined 867 hoursand 24 minutes.
In November before the flu surge hit, hospitals were on diversion for 188 hours, nearly five times less than the January mark.
“It’s a dramatic rise,” said Steve Carroll, administrator for the Ventura County Public Health Emergency Medical Services Agency, noting that there were instances when all hospitals in the county were on diversion. In those cases, patients were taken to the nearest hospital regardless of diversion status.
“Our hospitalshavedone an amazing job to try to keep it down,” Carroll said.
Diversion numbers are finally beginning to dwindle as fewer patients seek hospital care for flu symptoms,