Americans are being hit with one of the worst flu seasons in years, with
misery now widespread across 46 states, health officials say.
In the West, emergency rooms in California and Arizona are packed with
people struck by the flu, and drugs that ease the illness are in short
supply as doctors struggle with a sharp spike in cases.
Further complicating matters, many hospitals nationwide are struggling
with a shortage of intravenous bags that contain fluids that deliver medicine
to treat dehydrated patients, including flu patients. The reason: many
of the bags are produced by factories in Puerto Rico, which is still dealing
with power problems caused by Hurricane Maria in mid-November.
Meanwhile, flu cases are also widespread across the Northeast, and in Florida
health workers are reporting a January surge in severe cases.
Virtually no region of the country has been spared, as an imperfect vaccine
and a long bout of cold, wintry weather are conspiring to turn this flu
season into a severe one.
The South, Midwest, Southwest and West have been particularly hard hit,
according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"This is not unexpected," said Lynnette Brammer, an epidemiologist
in the CDC's influenza division. "Over the holidays, flu activity
increased a good bit. On a national level, the drugs are still there,
but in areas hard hit by flu the local pharmacy may not have them."