California’s Flu Season Has Been a Yearlong Flu Epidemic

California sees increase in RSV, a respiratory illness that can be dangerous for babies and young children, as flu season approaches

California has seen more than a doubling in influenza cases since 2000 and more than a 40% increase in reported respiratory illness since this fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2014, the state’s total number of confirmed cases totaled 7,000, including 1,858 in California. Since the beginning of the flu season last fall, the number of confirmed cases has increased by more than 50% to 2,959 and the number of reported cases has increased by 20% to 16,086. California’s five-week-old infants with the H1N1 virus were not included in the CDC’s surveillance numbers for this season, but are included in the total of confirmed cases.

“While we are cautiously optimistic about this season’s flu activity, the number of reported respiratory illness cases is disturbing and we are working on ways to address the challenges,” said California’s chief medical officer, Dr. Robert D. Appel, M.D., M.P.H., in a press release. He pointed to data from the state Department of Public Health showing that about 26% of all reported respiratory illness cases in California in 2014 were hospitalizations. He added, “We know that there are lessons to be learned from the past and we look forward to sharing those with you and the rest of the world.” As of Feb. 13, the CDC reports that California has recorded 2,959 cases of influenza and 159 deaths. All cases of H1N1 influenza have been linked to the 2009 global flu pandemic.

For years, residents of California have seen the state’s annual influenza epidemics and the public health impact they cause. In 2013, the state’s influenza surveillance system indicated 9,084 cases of respiratory illness were reported to the California Department of Public Health, including 1,386 hospital

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