Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Flu patients filling up emergency rooms

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Buffalo: Flu patients filling up emergency rooms
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If you don't have it yourself, you probably know someone who does, the flu is hitting the area hard this season - and filling hospital emergency departments. But as YNN's Kaitlyn Lionti tells us, they're not the best place for most flu patients to go.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — There's no doubt, it can make you feel miserable, but the Erie County Health Commissioner says typical flu symptoms don't necessarily warrant a trip to the ER.

"The emergency departments right now are really overflowed. They're really overwhelmed. Emergency departments are true to their name – they're for emergencies, it's not just any illness, it's for people who are very, very sick," said Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Health Commissioner.

Burstein says health professionals are seeing more cases of the flu earlier this year.

"There's been a large increase in the actual volume with flu-like symptoms that have been coming in and out of the emergency department," said Dr. Joseph Bart of ECMC.

While Bart says ECMC is concerned with everyone who comes in, they have to prioritize patients, so those with flu symptoms are waiting several hours.

"You are not only at risk of coming here to spread those around to other people, but at the same time, you're coming into a hospital that's not necessarily shy of having its own alternative infections as well, especially when your immune system is already a little bit down," said Bart.

If you think you have the flu, Burstein says you should get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, take ibuprofen or Tylenol around the clock to keep your fever down and stay home.

She says if you think you need to be evaluated, you should call your primary care doctor first, or go to an immediate care facility.

"Your wait time will be less and you're less likely to come in contact with all these communicable diseases," said Burstein.

Burstein says though it's unclear why this flu season is different, she says there are two new strains circulating, "Since they're new, we've never been exposed to them before, and unless you've had a flu vaccine you are not immune," she said.

But Burstein says it's not too late to get a flu shot - so you can be better prepared to beat the bug.

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