January 8, 2013 (CHICAGO) (WLS) — The flu outbreak in the Chicago area seems to be getting worse with some hospitals telling ambulances to take patients elsewhere.
That means the affected hospitals are asking ambulances to take emergency patients elsewhere, if they can do so safely.
University of Chicago, Swedish Covenant, and Advocate Trinity hospitals said their emergency rooms were flooded Tuesday with people suffering from the flu. Northwestern Memorial was also on bypass earlier Tuesday but came off bypass late in the morning.
“We consider a number of factors in going on bypass: the load in the hospital, the intensive care unit beds are very important, and the number waiting in the Emergency Department, but once any one of those factors lets up, then we go off of bypass,” said Dr. David Zich of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Emergency Medicine.
“It can get very busy at any hospital in the winter — especially if there’s a lot of influenza because of that problem,” said Dr. Robert Feldman, Cook County Hospital.
Eight local hospitals were on bypass for at least part of Monday night.
“He was coughing a lot during the past week. Not sure what’s going on,” said Keo Thach.
Thach brought her husband to Cook County Hospital. The emergency room there is seeing 50-to-70 suspected flu cases each day. That’s on top of the hospital’s nearly 400 regular daily ER visits. County continues to treat all patients.
Doctors say while many fight it with rest and treatment at home, some serious cases require a hospital stay.
“If you’re throwing up, you can’t keep down any fluids for more than a day, you’re feeling weak, having trouble breathing, or chest pains we’d encourage people to come in,” said Feldman.
This season’s flu is tough to beat. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it can last four or five days.
More than 40 states are now reporting widespread flu activity.
So far this season, the flu has claimed seven lives in Indiana and five in Illinois.
Each cough, sneeze and touch puts non-carriers at risk.
The virus can survive 2 -8 hours on metal or plastic. Think about that next time you ride the bus.
In an elevator, one sneeze can spray flu, in droplets, up to 20 feet, in your lungs and coating the doors and buttons.
Doctors say that 70 to 80 percent of the coughs around you are from the flu.
Influenza is so contagious, hospitals are distributing masks and isolating carriers.
“We make sure they’re in their own room, separate from other patients, so it doesn’t get spread from person to person,” Dr. Feldman said.
Doctors say that as bad as the flu is this year, they’re not seeing as many, or as sick, patients as they did during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009.
The best advice is to wash your hands frequently, and there’s still time to get the flu vaccine.