Local hospitals are overflowing with flu patients

Local hospitals are redirecting people to nearby facilities because their emergency rooms are packed.

January 8, 2013

(WBEZ/File)

Flu patients are crowding regional hospitals.

Dr. Lamar Hasbrouck is the Director of Illinois’ Department of Public Health. He said the state has seen an increase in the number of flu patients coming to local hospitals this season.

“Last year for the same time period, we would have two persons admitted to the ICU (internal care units) for influenza-like illness, this year that compares to 147,” said Hasbrouck.

That’s forcing some hospitals to turn people away from the emergency room.

About eight area hospitals were on bypass Tuesday. That means they’re redirecting people to nearby facilities.

In the past two months, The University of Chicago Medical Center had 166 new flu-related cases. That’s up from only one case the year before.

“It’s not only the overall increase in the number of patients but it’s a lot sooner than we are used to seeing," said Allison Bartlett, associate medical director for infectious control at University of Chicago. "Usually, the flu peaks at the end of January and the beginning of February,”

Cook County's Stronger Hospital is treating an average of about 80 flu patients per day. 

According to the Illinois’ Department of Public Health, over the last two months six people have died of flu-related complications.

But even with the dramatic increase of cases, experts said the current flu virus is not necessarily connected with worse symptoms than previous flu seasons.  

“I think it’s important to know that not everybody who gets the flu needs to go into the hospital or needs to be evaluated by a physician.” said Julie Morita medical director for the immunization program at the Chicago Department of Public Health. “People who have mild cases of influenza can stay at home,”.

She encourages people to wash their hands constantly and get the flu shot if they haven’t done so.

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