SALINAS, Calif. - UPDATE 1/19/2018 5:20 p.m.: Flu deaths in California have now nearly doubled in the last week.
The California Department of Public Health reports 32 people died from the flu between January 7 and January 13. That brings the total number of deaths in California to 74. Monterey County reported four deaths and there have been at least two flu deaths in Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties.
The flu is widespread in all the states but Hawaii. Some experts believe this year’s flu will rank among the most severe.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 74,000 confirmed cases of the flu across the country and more than 13,000 in California.
But the numbers are actually higher, because not everyone who was sick saw a doctor and not all flu deaths were reported.
"In California, doctors are required to report certain diseases to the Health Department,” said Monterey County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno. “One of those diseases is Influenza that causes death or serious illness in a person under the age of 65."
Influenza A H3N2 is the strain circulating around the most. It is known for more hospitalizations and deaths.
Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital said Friday it is still seeing a lot of patients.
"We're still seeing high numbers of flu patients in the emergency department daily,” said Carla spencer, director of emergency services at SVMH. “The overall emergency department volume has come down since the week after Christmas, however still seeing pretty high numbers of both Influenza A and Influenza B."
Patients are also seeing some challenges getting much-needed medication. Tamiflu is most effective if taken within 48 hours of symptoms showing up.
"We have received reports from physicians in Monterey County and I've confirmed other counties are having the same similar experience in which pharmacies are running out of their in stock supply of both the liquid Tamiflu, which is very important to treat babies and they're also running out of the generic version of the tablets which are used to treat adults," Moreno said.
While CDPH is looking to see what can be done to make sure pharmacies are stocked up, local hospitals say patients should shop around.
"What we're finding is definitely because of the increased incidence of the flu this year, we're finding naturally pharmacies are running out of the Tamiflu but typically, other pharmacies in the area will have it," Spencer said.
Health officials still recommend people get the flu vaccine even though it is late in the season.
While they admit people can still get sick, the vaccine can help lessen the severity of the symptoms and the length of the illness.
ORIGINAL POST: The California Department of Public Health said 74 people under the age of 65 have died from the flu so far this season.
Here in Monterey County, there have been four deaths, including one this week.
At least one local hospital said while it is still seeing a lot of cases the number of emergency room visits has gone down slightly since the week after Christmas. The problem a lot of patients are seeing is difficulty finding the medicine to treat the flu.
Doctors are required to report flu deaths of people under 65. They don't have to report deaths of people over that age.
KION’s Mariana Hicks has the full story at 5 and 6 p.m.