If you live in California and it seems like every single person you know has a terrible case of the flu, that’s because there’s a vicious strain going around.
Emergency rooms are crowded, pharmacies are running out of medicine, and the death toll is rising, the LA Times reports. As of Friday, Jan. 5, 27 people younger than the age of 65 have died from the flu in California since October—only three died last year within the same timeframe, according to the report.
Dr. Wally Ghurabi, the ER director of UCLA's Medical Center in Santa Monica, told the LA Times that on a typical day the medical center treats 140 patients. However last week, hospital staff treated over 200 patients in one day.
“The Northridge earthquake was the last time we saw over 200 patients,” Ghurabi told the LA Times.
Some officials note it’s still tough to say if this year is worse than last year’s flu season. In 2017, the flu had taken 68 lives by the end of February. According to the report, it’s possible that this year’s flu season is “outpacing” last year’s because it may have started earlier.
In early December, health officials anticipated this season would be particularly bad nationwide since it was picking up earlier than in previous years.
“Flu is picking up and picking up early,” Daniel Jernigan, director of the influenza division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Washington Post. “A lot of people are getting together in the next few days and weeks. All of those folks who are traveling, some of them will be traveling with their influenza.”
Whatever the case is, this year’s strain— H3N2— is one of the nastier ones, officials say.
“Of the viruses we hate, we hate H3N2 more than the other ones,” Jernigan told The Post.
Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, L.A. County’s interim health officer, also told the LA Times this strain “tends to cause more deaths and more hospitalizations than the other strains.”
This is the same strain that has reportedly affected Australia and England, also causing deaths and in an increase in hospitalizations.