Flu activity and hospitalizations are rising to levels not seen since before the Covid-19 pandemic, prompting public health officials and emergency room doctors to issue public pleas this week to get Californians vaccinated.

That’s a big change from the past two years, when stay-at-home orders and masks were issued to prevent the spread of the flu, which was so low in the Sacramento region that UC Davis Medical Center did not admit a single patient with the disease. 2020-21 Influenza Season.

“Everything we’ve done the last couple of years, we’ve used distancing and distancing,” said Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Health. “Typically, 100 to 200 US children die each flu season. In the year There was one infant death in the US in 2020-21.”

But children aren’t the only beneficiaries, according to death certificates reviewed by the California Department of Health. During the 2021-2022 flu season, flu deaths among seniors 65 and older dropped 73 percent compared to the 2018-2019 flu season before the Covid-19 pandemic, the agency reported.

There were 355 flu deaths in California that year, more than three times the 96 reported the previous season.

The raw numbers for flu deaths across all age groups show a dramatic decline from last season, compared to 2018-19: deaths among adults aged 50 to 64 fell to 23 from 141, and among those aged 18 to 49 from 29 to 99. Three of the 17 minors.

“There were fewer flu outbreaks, fewer flu hospitalizations, and fewer deaths during the pandemic,” said Erica Pan, MD, an epidemiologist at Pediatric Infectious Diseases in California. It was amazing.”

While the number of flu deaths will be much lower before the stay-at-home order ends in June 2021, data from last season shows that home mask mandates, new Covid-19 home tests, as well as age-appropriate and common measures like hand washing could improve mortality statistics.

To be sure, people were still traveling less and having more outdoor gatherings last season, Pan said, and all of that helped reduce the number of flu deaths as well.

“There are basically dozens of respiratory viruses in the winter, and for most of them, there’s a lot we’ve done and we’ll continue to do,” Pan said. It helps prevent these respiratory virusesHe said.

Flu cases are on the rise in the Sacramento region.

With flu-related hospitalizations coming out earlier than usual, emergency room doctors at Sacramento-based Sutter Health called a news conference Thursday to highlight their concerns and encourage residents to take precautions at holiday gatherings this month. He urged the public to get vaccinated for both flu and COVID-19 to prevent the spread of the disease.

The spread of the winter virus has increased dramatically. In addition to pushing many California hospitals to the limit following a recent Thanksgiving family gathering, Dr. Vincent Tamariz and Sutter Health’s Arthur Jay urged California to take two additional steps to prevent a repeat of the holiday season after December.

Tamariz, MD, director of pediatrics at Sutter California Pacific Medical Center’s Van Ness campus in San Francisco, advises parents to take precautions with their children to prevent the spread of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus. The illness has put many children in the hospital and caused four laboratory-confirmed deaths in California children under 5 this flu season.

“I can’t tell you how many 4-month-olds I’ve seen four days ago or five days ago being visited by their uncle for a family event, wedding or something like that,” Tamariz said. “And now this 4-month-old has RSV, which can be more serious than a one- or 2-year-old with RSV.'”

Jay, an emergency medicine physician at several Sutter hospitals in Northern California, suggests that people over the age of 2 should continue to “wear a mask” when meeting for the holidays.

Bloomberg echoed that sentiment, saying, “I hope the mask can be a useful and positive legacy from the Covid pandemic.” … I have had one respiratory infection in the last three years. I am always looking at children, looking at their faces, interacting with them, examining them. So I am very happy that all these restrictions have been removed and I have not been sick for the past three years.

California doctors are urging masks this winter

If you think about it, Pan said, what have doctors been doing for decades when they know how to treat patients with respiratory diseases? They wear masks, she said, because they know it will help protect them, their medical team and their families from disease.

If you are traveling in airports or on airplanes, wear a mask to avoid picking up viruses and spreading them to your friends. It’s all about managing your risk of exposure, she said.

If children end up in hospitals with respiratory illnesses, Jay and Tamariz said parents should know they can be transferred to another facility that can provide the level of care they need. Not all hospitals have the ability to care for severe cases of RSV, so children should go to a pediatric ward like Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, or CPMC’s Van Ness campus, he said.

In addition, Sacramento-area health systems are coordinating with each other and Sacramento County’s public health team to facilitate transfers and ensure patients get the care they need, Bloomberg noted.

If all mask mandates are lifted, Bloomberg said, he and other infectious disease experts expect the 2022-23 flu season to be as deadly as pre-pandemic years.

“Many people don’t realize that influenza kills 20,000 to 30,000 people in the U.S. every year,” he said, “and even people we wouldn’t normally think of as being at risk of serious illness, like children.” from him”

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Kathy Anderson covers health care for bees. Growing up, her blue-collar parents paid for her care out of their own pockets. She joined the Bee in 2002, in roles including business columnist and features editor. She previously worked at papers including the Dallas Morning News, the Detroit News and the Austin American-Statesman.

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