SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – State public health officials are preparing their emergency response teams to deal with California’s deadly flu crisis, predicted to be the worst in a decade.
Officials expect the state’s death toll to climb. Across the state, the flu has killed 28 people younger than 65 since December. That’s three times more than last year.
But officials say the number doesn’t account for the elderly and they’re are urging people to get vaccinated.
“I hope I don’t get it. I’ve been vaccinated,” said one Sacramento man standing outside a pharmacy.
As people rush to get their flu shots, the deadly virus shows no sign of letting up.
“We’re at the levels we usually see at the peak of the flu season,” said Dr. James Watt, chief of the communicable disease control division at the California Division of Public Health.
Watt warns that this flu season peaked early and is spreading quickly. That’s because people in the state are catching a particularly dangerous strain, called Influenza A. It’s a strain the flu shot doesn’t always protect against.
“We see more deaths that’s an important thing we track … and we see more people being hospitalized,” said Dr. Watt.
State data shows 70 % of the people who died this year did not get their flu shot. That means 30 % of them got the flu shot and died.
Still, doctors say the vaccine can prevent the flu, and shorten symptoms.
“So I’m really going to regret not getting it,” another man at the pharmacy said.
For those already infected, they’re finding the antiviral drug to treat the flu, known as Tamiflu, is running out.
At Pucci’s Pharmacy in Midtown Sacramento, there was one box left in the store as of Tuesday afternoon.
“And it’s already tagged for another patient,” said Pucci’s Pharmacy owner Clint Hopkins.
Hopkins says the drug has been back ordered since December. But the state maintains there is no shortage of Tamiflu in the state.
Dr. Watt says distributors just can’t keep up with demand. Now, the state’s working with pharmaceutical companies to get medication on store shelves, as fast as possible.
Doctors say only the most vulnerable should be taking that antiviral medicine. That includes children and people 65 and older.
Meanwhile, doctors have some common-sense tips we should all be following: Wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.