Hurricane Maria could have made flu season even worse

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Shortly after Hurricane Maria devastated most of Puerto Rico, hospitals across the United States became experiencing a shortage of saline solution and IV bags.

That's because many medical manufacturing plants are located on that island.

For example, Baxter International has three plants there and is the leading manufacture of IV bags and saline solution.

At the time, the American Hospital Association called it "a significant public health crisis." The FDA intervened and allowed Baxter to temporarily bring in products from other European countries.

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"We had to bring in other products and conserve what we had so that we did not run out,"said Jessica Galens, Pharmacy Business Operations Supervisor at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

Baxter is now back on the power grid and producing.

"If there had been flu cases at that time it would have been very difficult to manage," added Galens.

So far, 74 people under the age of 65 have died of the flu in California alone this season.

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"Just at 'Doctor on Demand' we've seen a 243 percent increase in the number of influenza cases in the last 20 days compared to the 20 days prior," according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ian Tong.

The Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco recently sent out a memorandum to it followers, stating, "the annual cold and flu season always offers us the opportunity to teach the faithful about the use of common sense in sharing the sign of peace and the chalice. It is a sign of consideration for others that those with flu-like symptoms remain home."

Doctors still recommend that you get a flu vaccine, wash your hands more frequently and stay home if you're sick.

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