Clark County hospitals deal with increase in flu cases

Health care providers caution against visiting emergency rooms, unless necessary

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A spike in the number of people who are visiting emergency rooms due to the flu is creating challenges for local hospitals and their staff members.

PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver recently reported that physicians saw a dramatic increase in the number of influenza patients starting in December. That number has continued to grow.

“This flu season began earlier than typical, and is showing signs of being one of the worst since H1N1 back in 2008-2009,” said Catherine Kroll, PeaceHealth infection preventionist in a news release.” Health care providers throughout the metro area began seeing a spike in mid-December with patients arriving with flu-like symptoms. At PeaceHealth Southwest, the number is increasing each day. The volume of patients has put the medical center at capacity, and we are taking measures to ensure there will be no interruption in patient care.”

While there are situations when an emergency department visit is necessary, local medical professionals recommend those who are experiencing flu symptoms to first contact their healthcare providers.

Clark County Health Department officials are echoing this advice, explaining that it will help reduce emergency room overcrowding, help prevent the spread of flu to others, and ensure emergency departments are able to treat other serious medical conditions.

“Most people who have the flu will be very uncomfortable but do not need to go to an emergency department,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer and public health director.

According to PeaceHealth,in most cases, people experiencing flu-like symptoms can care for themselves successfully at home by getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated,and taking medication as needed to relieve pain. The illness will usually run its course without medical intervention.

Symptoms in adults and children that would warrant a trip to the emergency room include when a person is confused or can’t be woken up; has difficulty breathing,pain or pressure in chest or abdomen,blue lips or skin rash; and is unable to drink or keep liquids down.

Children ages 3 months and older who are experiencing fever and excessive irritability are also advised to visit an emergency room.

The flu vaccine is still available in Clark County. Those who have health insurance and would like to get receive the vaccine should call their health care provider or pharmacy.

Those who are uninsured can receive a low-cost flu shot by calling Sea Mar Community Health Centers at (360) 852-9070 or the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington at (360)313-1390.

It can take up to two weeks for the vaccine to be effective. The flu season typically lasts through spring.