FLU: Pneumonia Cases Soar as Flu Season Worsens
California health officials are "bracing for the peak of an already taxing cold and flu season this month and are urging residents to get flu shots to prevent a wider outbreak of pneumonia," the AP/Sacramento Bee reports. Dr. Jay Brown, an emergency room physician at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, said, "This year's cold season is shaping up to be far more severe than a flu epidemic two years ago." He added, "It's lasting longer and is more sustained." As a result, health officials maintain the recent outbreak of winter colds and influenza has led to a "soaring number of pneumonia cases statewide." Currently, pneumonia now accounts for about 17% of total hospital admissions, compared to 10% last year. Outside flu season, pneumonia accounts for only about 3% of all admissions. Carol Glaser, a medical officer with the state Department of Health, said the "flu is driving most of [the pneumonia cases]. It's a heavier flu season." Noting that 10% of its 230 patients currently suffer pneumonia-related illnesses -- compared to its usual 1% or 2% -- Valley Presbyterian Hospital spokesperson Kellye Tarelka said, "All hospitals are getting bombarded." Arguing that the state's unusually warm winter has exacerbated the situation, Jim Lott, spokesperson for the Health Care Association of Southern California, said, "We had an unrelated virus that was aggravated by dry and arid conditions in Southern California that contributes to pneumonia cases" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 1/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.