L.A. hospitals gird for rise in flu cases

Sunday, January 26, 2014
By Paul Martin

With statewide deaths outpacing last year’s and being blamed in part on a ‘swine flu’ strain, L.A. facilities worry about its spread.

By Soumya Karlamangla
January 24, 2014

Despite a statewide drop in reported influenza cases, Los Angeles hospitals are preparing for this year’s season to worsen in the coming weeks, fearful of the deadly H1N1 “swine flu” virus strain that is to blame for most of this year’s flu deaths.

H1N1 killed thousands of people around the world in 2009. That has hospitals worried about the spread of the illness, especially since California’s flu deaths this year have dramatically outpaced last year’s at this time.
Dr. Rekha Murthy, epidemiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said that starting Monday the hospital will require that visitors wear masks — whether or not they’re sick — and that patients see only two visitors at a time. The last time flu prevention measures were stepped up like this, she said, was during the 2009 pandemic.

“I think we learned at that time that we’ve got to act quickly,” she said.

This year’s flu is fast-moving. State health officials Friday reported 95 confirmed deaths from influenza among people under 65, with an additional 51 cases likely to be confirmed next week. That would put this year’s flu fatalities at 146 so far.

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