Flu shot shortage reported as flu epidemic overloads hospitals

Dr. Allan Hansen, an emergency room medical director near San Diego, tells "GMA" how medical professionals are responding in the particularly hard-hit state of California.
4:03 | 01/18/18

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Transcript for Flu shot shortage reported as flu epidemic overloads hospitals
Safe travels back home. Michael. The new epidemic straining health care systems coast to coast. Fears are growing over how quickly it's spreading and turning deadly and ABC's Adrienne Bankert is here with the very latest. Boy, this is getting bad, Adrienne. It's especially deadly among children, Michael. According to the CDC at least 20 kids have died of the flu this season and this morning, millions of families are on edge watching for symptoms. Michael messenger's mom noticed her 12-year-old son suffering flu-like symptoms during dinary and took him to the hospital. The next morning she found him frustrating to breathe. The only way I can describe the way he looked is he looked like a fifsh out of water trying to breathe. Reporter: He later died from what his family believes is the flu. The guilt because I'm a pom, I'm supposed to protect my kids, and I couldn't. I couldn't protect him. Reporter: Michael had received a flu vaccine and even though there is no official ruling on his death the medical community is bracing itself for how to deal with this epidemic that often has little warning. Thomas Thom Katie Thomas was sent home with a flu diagnosis and 48 hours later was admitted to this hospital where she died within 18 hours and days earlier the mother of three and fitness enthusiast was ice skating with her kids. It just happened so quickly. Reporter: Her family tells ABC news they believe Oxley Thomas had received the flu vaccine. We've seen record volumes pretty much daily and all hands on deck. Reporter: Hospitals overwhelmed and waiting rooms overflowing. This is what we work hard and train and what we're here for. Reporter: The CDC doesn't keep track of all flu deaths. Just pediatric cases and each case sorts differently so that number will likely go up again sadly. California's been hit particularly hard. San Diego county had 51 new flu-related deaths just last week. Let's bring in Dr. Allen Hansen, the emergency medical director of Palomar. Thank you for joining us. This year's flu is absolutely different than years before. Why is that? Well, what we're seeing is that the number of cases really has spiked much earlier in the #pflu season than we normally see, in fact, it really spiked just after the Christmas holiday and we saw record volumes just right after that. There are so many cases coming in that you've actually had to bring in traveling staff to help you guys out. Well, what we do every year we prepare for these high volumes and expect that. This year we plan to have 17 additional travel nurses that have come to help from all over the country and something we prepare for every year and particularly necessary this year with the high volumes that we're seeing. And we've been hearing about seemingly healthy people get sick and even dying from the flu and happening so quickly, so fast, why is that happening so fast? Well, you know, it's not clear at this time why it seems to be more virulent and infectious. What we are seeing is just higher volumes of cases and that may be part of it. Really the freedom annapolis people that are affected are the young and the elderly with more medical conditions. What about the hospital workers? They're around the flu all day. Every day. What are you doing to keep them safe? What kind of extra precautions are you taking with the hospital workers? So, the biggest thing is everyone is required to be vaccinated. And that is the biggest protection you can have but all the standard precautions with hand washing and wearing masks are the best thing we can do to help our workers healthy when they're working long hours taking care of larger number of patient. Dr. Hansen, thank you and thank you for the work you're doing out there in California to try to keep everybody as healthy as possible. Thank you very much. And, boy, this epidemic is taking over. So serious. Take precautions. We go to that sea rescue.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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