According to public health officials, this year’s flu season is moderately severe and could continue to worsen due to persistent cold weather and a less than perfect vaccine. In fact, on Thursday, February 15 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that this year’s flu vaccines are just 36% effective, which means those who did receive the shot are 36% less likely to get the flu. However, the vaccine is more effective in children.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that young children are 59% less likely to get the virus after receiving the flu vaccine.
This year, America is facing the H3N2 strain of the influenza virus, which happens to be the most dangerous of the four typical yearly strains. That said, it isn’t particularly unique in its deadliness.
Right now, roughly 6% of all medical care patients are reporting flu symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention. This is high, but not atypically so.
In some areas, though, hospitals are becoming burdened with flu patients. Due to overcrowding, medical staff in California hospitals are pitching triage tents outside.
“There’s a little bit of a feeling of being in the trenches. We’re really battling these infections to try to get them under control,” LA Times quotes Dr. James McKinnell, infectious disease specialist at Torrance Memorial Medical Center.
The question many doctors are likely asking themselves: why don’t people go to an urgent care center?
A private study conducted by Milliman revealed that 44-65% of all emergency room episodes could be treated in urgent care settings.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, urgent care popularity is on the rise. This is, in part, due to the inconvenience (bordering on impossibility) of booking a same-day appointment with a primary care physician.
With hospital pricing inexplicably rich and a lack of doctors accepting new patients (or even current ones), something needs to fill the gap in medical treatment this flu season.
“Urgent care centers are uniquely positioned to help individuals and families during this upcoming flu season, as they offer an affordable, convenient healthcare option to treat non-life- or limb-threatening illnesses,” said President of the Urgent Care Association of America, Pamela Sullivan.
With options for intermediate level healthcare growing, perhaps America is ready for a change.
For now, hospitals must work with the resources they have to treat patients with the H3N2 virus.