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California hospitals use overflow tents for growing number of flu patients

Several Southern California hospitals have started using overflow tents outside emergency rooms to deal with increasing numbers of patients with influenza and other respiratory illnesses.

The San Diego-Union Tribune reported Friday that overflow tents had been set up at Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas, Jacobs Medical Center at UC San Diego Health in La Jolla and Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa to deal with the an increase in respiratory diseases.

Scripps hospitals and doctors’ offices have reported 1,695 positive flu tests since Sept. 1, up from 471 in the same period a year ago.

A patient receives a dose of vaccine during a flu vaccination campaign.

A patient receives a dose of vaccine during a flu vaccination campaign.
(Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga/AFP via Getty Images)

The move comes amid an increase in flu symptoms among emergency room patients in San Diego County. About 9% of those patients had flu symptoms last week, up from 7% two weeks ago, according to a county report.

The San Diego-Union Tribune also reported an increase in the number of patients with symptoms of COVID-19, but not as quickly, according to the county’s weekly respiratory disease report.

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“The fear is that everything will bounce off everything else and once you’ve been through the flu you could still get hit by COVID or whatever virus you’re going to catch,” said Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, Scripps Health’s chief medical officer. acute care operations and clinical excellence.

“I’m hopeful, but we still expect it to be like this until February,” Sharieff said.

A pharmacist administers a free flu shot to a customer at a CVS Health Corp. pharmacy.  in Miami, Florida, U.S. on Wednesday, September 30, 2020. CVS Health Corp.  said this month that it plans to vaccinate up to 18 million people.

A pharmacist administers a free flu shot to a customer at a CVS Health Corp. pharmacy. in Miami, Florida, U.S. on Wednesday, September 30, 2020. CVS Health Corp. said this month that it plans to vaccinate up to 18 million people.
(Photographer: Marco Bello/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Typically, the flu hits hardest from late December through February.

The southern hemisphere also had to deal with an earlier than usual flu season. Flu positivity rates in Chile reached epidemic thresholds as early as January, several months earlier than usual.

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Health experts said it was not immediately clear whether flu cases would peak earlier than usual in California, which typically sees the bulk of cases from December to February, or a flu season. prolonged.

Nurses prepare flu vaccine injections during a flu shot clinic at Dorchester House, a health care clinic, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Nurses prepare flu vaccine injections during a flu shot clinic at Dorchester House, a health care clinic, in Boston, Massachusetts.
(Reuters/Brian Snyder)

Much of the United States is experiencing a rapid start to flu season. Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more flu cases were being reported than generally expected at this time.

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On Friday, the CDC reported that influenza and similar viral illnesses were particularly high in Georgia, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, DC.

“Early increases in seasonal influenza activity continue nationwide. Southeast and south-central regions of the country are reporting the highest levels of activity, followed by mid-Atlantic regions and the west coast of the central south.” the CDC said.

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Most of them are influenza A, especially a strain called H3N2. Although any version of the flu can be dangerous for vulnerable populations, this strain is known to cause more serious illnesses.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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