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Flu cases expected to rise in Southern California over next few weeks

January 8, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The Los Angeles County Department of Health has seen an increase in emergency room visits for respiratory illnesses that many believed were flu-like symptoms. Most were not influenza, but the cases of the flu are expected to rise in Southern California in the next few weeks.

Eighty percent of the country is now reporting severe flu. Some hospitals are setting up special tents outside because they are so inundated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there's now widespread flu activity in 41 states, and California could be next.

"One of the viruses circulating in the U.S. right now is this H3N2 virus. This influenza virus has been linked to seasons in the past that have been severe," said Dr. Michael Jhung with the CDC.

Local health officials are warning people to get a flu shot if they haven't received one yet.

"This year, the flu that we're seeing is a very good match for what's in the flu immunization, so there's still time for every person 6 months of age or older who's not been immunized during this flu season," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health.

Fielding said Los Angeles is seeing more flu in the last two weeks than this time last year.

"In flu, the major symptoms are you have fever, and you have a sore throat and/or cough. You don't see all that with a cold," said Fielding. "Antibiotics are not effective against influenza. You should not take antibiotics unless directed by a medical professional."

Fielding said most flu-like symptoms can be cured by taking time off work, resting, drinking plenty of fluids and taking over the counter medication. He said, in many cases, going to the emergency room is not necessary and can just add to your stress.