Flu outbreak overflows Chicagoland hospitals - Fox 2 News Headlines

Chicagoland hospitals turning away flu cases, no room

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Chances are, you know someone who has been hit hard with the flu this season.

Never in the past decade has the flu season started this early according to the Center for Disease Control.

Eleven area hospitals are now on a bypass status - meaning they are so swamped with flu patients, they have to turn people away.

Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold says almost 150 people have been admitted to intensive care units with the flu this season and five have died. Forty-one states across the country are seeing an outbreak of the flu, and Illinois is among the hardest hit.

Influenza cases are straining the resources at hospital emergency rooms in the Chicago area.

Hospitals like Northwestern Medical Center and others in the area are on bypass status. So if you're in an ambulance because you have the flu, this hospital will have to turn you away. That doesn't mean people can't walk in there and still get treatment if they're okay to do so, but it's going to be a long wait.

The Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove reported that its emergency room has up to a three hour wait, and a Good Samaritan doctor described the situation as "chaotic."

"It's not like you can just see them and out the door they go. They're here for a while unfortunately, getting treatments," Dr. Tom Mullin said. "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."

The typical flu season peaks in mid- to late-January and carries into late March. But health officials say major cases began appearing as early as Thanksgiving.

At Cook County Hospital, they saw 70 patients for the flu in a single day on top of the 400 other emergency care patients they take. Cook County Hospital may not be on bypass status, but representative Marisa Kollias said they are working with other hospitals to help treat ambulatory flu patients that other hospitals are having to turn away.

At Elmhurst memorial Hospital, 400 flu cases have already been documented. On December 26th, Elmhurst's emergency room staff cared for more than 214 patients in a 24-hour period.

Mary Anderson, infection control manager at Edward Hospital, said the hospital normally sees an average of 200 cases per season. But as of last week the hospital already has seen more than 260 confirmed cases.

Dr. Mullin said the best way to avoid coming to the emergency room is to recognize the flu symptoms early.

"It's a drug called Tamiflu that your doctors can prescribe for you," Dr. Mullin said. "And the sooner you get it the better. If its over 48 hours from the time your symptoms begin well then it's too late."

If your child is suffering from any combination of the following, take them into the emergency room:

  • breathing fast
  • bluish skin
  • not drinking enough fluids
  • not waking up, is irritable
  • won't let you hold them
  • a fever
  • a rash.

If you're an adult and you're experiencing any combination of these, take yourself into the emergency room:

  • shortness of breath
  • pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • sudden dizziness
  • confusion
  • sudden, persistent vomiting

Illinois health officials said when it comes to the flu, remember three C's: Clean your hands, cover your mouth, contain your germs.

The best advice is if you're sick, stay home from work. They also recommend hashing hands regularly for at least 15 seconds and keeping a distance from others.

Officials say getting a flu shot could be the easiest way to avoid the emergency room. It isn't too late to get a flu shot, and there's no shortage of flu vaccine.

Dr. Julie Morita of the Chicago Department of Public Health said city residents can call 311 to find out where to get a free flu shot.

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