At hospitals around the Bay Area, those on the front lines of what is shaping up to be the worst flu season in a decade are struggling to keep up — and wondering whether it will get worse.
“It also struck early. What we’re not sure yet is whether we’ve hit the peak,” said Dr. Jonathan Blum, infectious disease and flu leader at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara. “If it turns out we keep going up, it would make it a very bad season.”
Doctors and nurses are working overtime and double shifts. Some have become sick themselves, causing staff shortages when they are needed most. As one doctor put it, in emergency departments where misery is often hidden behind ubiquitous blue masks, “there’s a lot of coughing, sneezing, crying and fever.”
According to the Mercury News, across California, at least 42 people younger than 65 have died since Oct. 1 because of flu-related illnesses — including at least 19 in the Bay Area — compared with three statewide last year.
In Santa Clara County, five people have died this season — including a 40-year-old woman last week at Good Samaritan — and six in Contra Costa County. In Alameda County, hospitals are seeing a surge in flu patients, but no flu-related deaths had been reported by late last week.