his year’s flu has flared up in recent weeks and caused at least 24 deaths so far. The flu and other viruses have sent hundreds of people to emergency departments and urgent care clinics. This has had a significant impact on hospital capacity, resulting in some people waiting hours in emergency departments before they are seen. The flu is also starting to spread among hospital staff in some areas.
WSHA is in regular contact with hospitals and the Department of Health (DOH). Here are a few key things to know:
- Prevention is the best way to deal with the flu. Get your flu shot and wash your hands!
- Know your care options. Using nurse help lines and walk-in clinics, and calling your doctor are all good steps to take before showing up at an already-crowded emergency department.
- No one will be turned away from an emergency department, but there may be long wait times while more severely ill patients are seen.
- Hospitals may restrict visitors. Please be understanding about our need to stop the spread of this deadly disease.
It’s also important for hospital staff to stay healthy. The DOH advises caregivers to:
- Get a flu shot, because this year’s vaccine is well-matched to the flu strains circulating now.
- Make sure all patients with confirmed or suspected flu are placed in droplet precautions.
- Wash hands before and after seeing patients with the flu.
- If you feel sick, stay home.
This flu season is impacting staffing and bed space in many hospitals. To address those problems, facility emergency managers should be working with their regional health care coalition and public health agency. The latest data on flu activity in the state is in the weekly DOH Influenza Update. (Mary Kay Clunies-Ross)