LOS ANGELES, CA – Flu season started early in Southern California, where a single outbreak stranded more than 1,000 students at a San Diego high school and caused more early-season flu deaths than in previous years, according to the California Department of Public Health. .
Although unusual, CDPH officials said it is not unprecedented to see deaths during the fall. However, hospitalizations and deaths from the flu usually occur during the winter months.
“While it is still too early to know exactly what this year’s flu season will look like in California, there are indications that flu activity may begin earlier than usual this year,” CDPH said. “It is likely that seasonal flu viruses, the COVID-19 virus, and other viruses that cause respiratory infections will be circulating this fall and winter.”
The 2022-2023 flu season coincides with spikes in respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, and COVID-19 cases, with health officials across the country warning of a possible “triple demy.” Local hospitals are experiencing an unusually high rate of hospitalizations this season, straining capacity as more patients wait for beds.
Public health officials in San Diego County have sounded the alarm about a spike in flu cases, fearing that all three viruses could further tax the region’s hospitals.
“As we see a spike in flu and RSV cases, I urge San Diegans to do their part to prevent the spread of disease,” said Dr. Wilma J. Wooten, District Hygienist.
The good news is that the strains in this year’s flu vaccine closely match the strains that appear to be active and were detected in the country this fall, according to CDPH. With flu cases trending up in the state, health officials have been stressing the importance of vaccination to prevent the spread of the virus.
According to the CDPH, the predominant virus so far this season is influenza A (H3N2). This strain can cause serious illness in people of any age, but it is particularly likely to affect older adults, according to early data collected by CDPH.
“A flu shot is the best way to prevent serious illness and limit the spread to others,” CDPH said. “People who are at high risk for severe influenza and COVID-19 should consult with their health care providers about information about testing and potential treatment.”
Nationally, federal health officials said the number of flu cases this season in the U.S. is higher than it has been this time of year in more than a decade. Influenza, RSV, and COVID-19 tend to peak seasonally, and the three diseases have similar symptoms.
According to the CDC, flu symptoms include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills (although not everyone with the flu will have a fever)
- Sore throat
- A runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Some people may experience vomiting and diarrhea, although this is more common in children than adults.
There is no vaccine for RSV like there is for the flu and COVID-19, but several pharmaceutical companies are working on developing vaccines.
CDPH said if someone is unsure whether they have the flu, RSV or COVID-19, they should:
- Rest and stay hydrated, as well as take over-the-counter medications to help you feel better.
- Stay in touch with a doctor and call before seeking medical attention. People should get care if they are having trouble breathing, have emergency warning signs, or believe there is an emergency.
- Reduce the spread of the disease by staying home when possible, wearing a mask, washing your hands often, and taking other steps to prevent spreading the disease to others.
More information about this year’s flu can be found on the CDPH website.