Ana Oktay rushed to the hospital in late December struggling to breathe, with a 102-degree fever and a cough that wouldn’t let up. ​​​​​She expected doctors to tell her she had pneumonia or bronchitis. “They were just like: ‘It’s just influenza A. It’s just what’s going around,’” said Oktay, 49. An influenza A strain known as H3N2 is making people so ill in California that thousands have shown up in recent weeks at hospitals struggling to fight the infection. “I was flat on my back and in bed for 10 days,” said Oktay, who lives in Palms.

“This has been hands down the worst flu I’ve ever dealt with.” The huge numbers of sick people are also straining hospital staff who are confronting what could become California’s worst flu season in a decade. Hospitals across the state are sending away ambulances, flying in nurses from out of state and not letting children visit their loved ones for fear they’ll spread the flu. Others are canceling surgeries and erecting tents in their parking lots so they can triage the hordes of flu patients. READ MORE