Tags: flu | patients | crushing | hospitals

Surge In Flu Patients Crushing Hospitals Nationwide

Tuesday, 08 Jan 2013 09:47 PM

Hospitals across the country are being stretched for service as this year’s flu season looks to be the most intense in nearly a decade, with facilities beginning to turn patients away because of the danger that it could spread through their staffs.

Thirty-nine states and New York City have reported significant levels of influenza-like-illnesses as medical professionals are reminded of the 2003-2004 season when more than 40,000 people died because the predominant strain was so dissimilar from the vaccine that year, reported Fox News.

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Hospital officials have described the season so far as “chaotic.” Doctors are telling patients to begin taking Tamiflu or other medications as soon as they begin to experience symptoms and some have set up tent facilities outside of hospitals to keep the illness away from their staffs.

"If we can remove them from the main ED and put them in environment where everyone is masked and everyone can be protected, it's safer for them and certainly safer for the staff," said Terry Burger, hospital director of infection at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest in Pennsylvania.

The CDC has said it expects the issues to continue for some time because, during the last 10 years at least, the season lasts 12 to 16 weeks with a baseline of patients along the lines of what has been seen so far in 2012-2013.

"It's not like you can just see them and out the door they go. They're here for a while unfortunately, getting treatments," said Dr. Tom Mullin of Good Samaritan Hospital in Chicago. "Most of them we can fortunately discharge them home and treat them as an outpatient. But, it's wreaking havoc on every emergency department in the city and the suburbs, I'll tell you that."

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Illinois has been the hardest hit so far. Five people have died and 11 hospitals have received so many patients that they are turning patients away regularly.

The comparison to 2003-2004 is apt because that year the predominant form of the flu that roughly three-quarters of patients were diagnosed with was so different from the vaccine and nothing could be done but to treat those who contracted it.

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