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Thousands Will Die From Flu This Year, Doctors Predict

NORTHRIDGE ( — Although concerns are mounting across the nation of Ebola exposure, doctors fear the focus could be diverting attention from another potential threat: the flu.

"It potentially could become an epidemic if we become distracted and we don't get our annual flu vaccine. We’re worried about other things, things like Ebola," pediatrician Janesri De Silva told KCAL9’s Serene Branson.

De Silva is chair of pediatrics at Northridge Hospital Medical Center and runs urgent-care clinics for children and teenagers.

"We are all worried about Ebola and if we look at the numbers, there have been about three or four cases of Ebola and one death of Ebola so far here in the U.S.,” the doctor said. “Up to 49,000 people die of influenza a year.”

Every year, there are more than 20,000 pediatric hospitalizations with the Centers for Disease Control reporting five deaths from the flu since May in cases hitting the East Coast early.

Last year, only half of all Americans got vaccinated.

This year, the mist has been approved for healthy patients over the age of 2 and protects against four strains of flu.

De Silva says getting the vaccine will help keep patients out of the emergency room, limiting exposure to Ebola and other viruses, and helping to eliminate fears that flu-like symptoms could be Ebola.

What’s more, she says, it will help health-care workers focus on more serious viruses that can’t be as easily prevented.

Although flu season in Southern California typically begins in November, De Silva says the vaccine takes several weeks to become active.

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