ERs see unusual surge in flu patients

Jan 3, 2013

(PROVIDENCE, RI) Rhode Island’s hospital emergency rooms are coping with an unusually high surge of patients suffering from the flu. But what’s driving that increase?

Most people who catch this season’s flu will spend several uncomfortable days shivering in bed. But those who get hit particularly hard can end up in the hospital, needing fluids or suffering from a high fever. And right now, says Dr. Brian Zink, head of emergency medicine for Rhode Island and The Miriam Hospitals, those hit hard by the flu are making for very busy emergency rooms. The reason? The season.

“It just took hold a little bit earlier,” said Zink. “And especially since in the last two to three years we’ve been seeing the flu hit much later, even into February and March, so seeing it really start hitting in November, December, was unusual this year.

Zink says Rhode Island’s aggressive flu immunization campaign has worked well, but most people who end up in the emergency department have not been immunized.

Several hospitals are seeing high volumes of patients now, according to Zink.

“Rhode Island hospital is very high volume right now, Miriam hospital extremely high volume, and Hasbro Children’s, likewise, both in the emergency department and then in hospital itself it’s very high occupancy, and a lot of it is due to flu or flu-related consequences,” said Zink.

Zink says Hasbro’s Children’s Hospital saw 600 more patients this past December than it did in December 2011, all due to the flu.

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