This year’s flu outbreak has prompted changes to many local clinics and hospitals. Many clinics are expanding hours to keep up with the demand for the flu shot.
Delaware Public Health Officials tell NBC10 around this time last year they had three confirmed cases of the flu. This year? More than 400. Officials at a clinic in New Castle Delaware say the state provided them with enough vaccines to hand out 225 shots a day.
Anna Key, 61, of New Castle, tells NBC10 she’s never thought about getting a flu shot, until now.
“The fear was that at my age, if I get the flu, it would be hard for me to fight it off,” said Key. “I just wasn’t willing to take that risk.”
Key was a walk-in at the Delaware Division of Public Health in New Castle. Nurses there had 70 appointments scheduled. Officials say they were forced to shift staff and expand hours. NBC10 also learned the state is suspending child physicals, routine immunizations and pregnancy tests to accommodate the growing demand for the flu shot.
“Our goal really is to make sure we can get the flu vaccine into as many people as possible,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay of the Delaware Division of Health.
In Pennsylvania, health centers are also expanding their hours to accommodate the demand. While some health centers are running low on the vaccine, officials insist there’s no shortage. Health officials in New Jersey tell NBC10 they are increasing their efforts to prevent the flu from spreading. Patients at Cooper University Hospital are now limited to two visitors. They can’t be under 18 and anyone who must be in the hospital with flu like symptoms must wear a mask.
Be sure to call your local health official to find out their hours each day.
With all the overloaded hospitals and clinics, many people are looking elsewhere for help. The Concentra Urgent Care Center in Plymouth Meeting has had a surge in flu and flu shot patients.
“A lot of them tell the story that they’ve been to the Emergency Room and waited hours before they came to us,” said Dr. Eric Solomon, the medical director of Concentra. “Also a lot of them couldn’t get in to see their family doctor for several weeks or months even.”
The staff at Urgent Care says they have an ample supply of vaccines since they are able to get dosages shipped in from around the country.
NBC10 also reached out to a local doctor to help separate fact from fiction regarding the influenza virus.
“This year we’re seeing a lot of flu cases but there are a lot of other viruses that do the same thing or give you the symptoms of the flu but they’re just not the flu,” said Dr. Stuart Brilliant, the E.R. Chief at Paoli Hospital. “We’re seeing a lot of upper respiratory illness and in addition we’re seeing a lot of GI illnesses.”
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Dr. Brilliant says at least 35 to 40 flu patients have checked into the E.R. at Paoli per day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the flu arrived much earlier this season than it has in year’s past. Even people who prepared early to combat the deadly sickness are developing influenza. NBC10’s Monique Braxton spoke to Dr. Brilliant who broke down both the myths and the facts of this year’s flu strain:
Monique Braxton: Does the flu shot work?
Dr. Brilliant: This year around 60 to 65 percent of people are being covered by the flu vaccine.
Monique Braxton: Some people say the flu shot will give you the flu.
Dr. Brilliant: I think that’s one of those old myths and wives tales.
Monique Braxton: What if you’re young, healthy and work out a lot. Do you really need the flu shot?
Dr. Brilliant: My answer would be yes. It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.
Monique Braxton: You don’t need to get a flu shot every year do you?
Dr. Brilliant: That’s another one of those myths. Every year the strains of the flu change so you should get it every year.
Monique Braxton: Can you catch the flu from the weather, like if you go out without a jacket in cold weather or have a wet head in cold weather or if you’re sitting by a drafty window?
Dr. Brilliant: That’s a myth.
Dr. Brilliant also says the antiviral drug Tamiflu is prescribed for confirmed flu patients who have had symptoms for less than 48 hours, especially children, seniors or others with weakened immune systems.
“Viruses live inside of your cells,” said Dr. Brilliant. “So antibiotics don’t typically work on them. Bacteria live outside of your cells however so antibiotics do work on that.”
Dr. Brilliant also says flu patients should drink plenty of fluids, treat the fever and get plenty of rest. He also urges everyone to stay away from others who are sick.