After a battery of tests, my father lays in one of the many segregated rooms that have mushroomed at local hospitals in the last two weeks to handle what has become a stunning spike in flu cases.
Realize this season’s flu is no simple virus, the kind you wonder if you ate something bad the night before. This beast can cause fevers above 106 degrees. It can kill, especially the young and the elderly.
Exactly how large the flu bloom looms remains murky. But from San Diego northward the outlook looks grim in what is an exceptionally early season.
With February usually the peak for flu, Los Angeles witnessed its first two deaths in November. Last month in Riverside County, a Murrieta child died.
At this time last year, Orange County had zero influenza deaths. This flu season, Orange County health officials already have seen four deaths.
(California only reports flu deaths for people below the age of 65. Pinpointing flu as a cause of death in older patients is sketchy.)
The total number of documented flu cases in Orange County is above 1,230 since the official start of the flu season, Oct. 1. That’s more than twice the number — 502 cases — at this time a year ago.
“Area emergency rooms are reporting heavy activity in the last few weeks,” says Dr. Matt Zahn, medical director of epidemiology at the Orange County Health Care Agency. “This is unusual.”
Zahn points out the numbers could slow down — or they could increase, as they did last year as the flu season wore on.
The reason for the spike? Unknown.
But one thing is certain: This is one very serious bug. Circumspect by training, Zahn acknowledges, “The degree of flu that’s being seen is more severe than…