This year, the flu season may be shaping up to be worse than usual. In California, health officials estimate that this may be the most severe season in a decade. What could make the flu worse?

Which Flu Is It?

According to the CDC, the most common influenza virus confirmed in tests was influenza A type H3. This could include the strain H3N2, which was the main strain in Australia’s recent influenza epidemic.

Most states are reporting significant rates of influenza infections. Emergency rooms are overflowing with patients and many hospitals are restricting visitors to try to control the spread of the disease.

Another Complication Making the Flu Worse Right Now:

Adding to the challenge is the shortage of intravenous bags. Many of these were manufactured in Puerto Rico, which is still suffering from the aftereffects of Hurricane Maria. Without IV bags, doctors have difficulty treating dehydrated patients and delivering intravenous medications.

What Should You Do?

Public health officials are encouraging people to get vaccinated, though the flu shot is not expected to be very effective this year. The oral medicine, oseltamivir (Tamiflu), may shorten the duration and severity of the illness, but supplies of this antiviral medicine appear to be running low. Avoiding people who are sick when possible and washing hands frequently are cornerstones of public health advice to stay healthy during flu season. You can learn more from our Guide to Colds, Coughs and the Flu.

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