Flu outbreak: ER, Immediate Care busy with patients

Flu outbreak: ER, Immediate Care busy with patients
The ER at Forrest General Hospital has seen a 20% increase in patients in the last weeks. Source: WDAM.

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The peak of flu season is yet to come, but Hattiesburg doctors are already swamped with sick patients.

"It's not the worse we've ever seen, but it certainly is worse than the last several years," said Dr. John Nelson, the Medical Director for the Emergency Room at Forrest General Hospital.

Nelson said on a normal day, doctors see about 240 patients in the ER.  On Tuesday, doctors saw over 300.

"It's putting a strain on availability of care strictly because the numbers involved," Nelson said.  "We've seen probably a 20-percent increase in patient volume in the last two weeks."

Hattiesburg Clinic Immediate Care has reported seeing up to 40 or 50 confirmed flu cases in a given day over the past several weeks.

"Of course, it's always best to see your primary care provider first," said Nelson.  "But, what's happened is, the number of patients have overwhelmed the system and we're an alternative path. Some of these patients do have chronic illnesses and are at risk for complications."

That strain on emergency room across the country are causing shortages in things like IV bags, medication and other equipment.  Luckily, that has not become an issue for Forrest General - yet.

"We're aware there are shortages out there, we may be notified to try to use less of this or that, but no, we haven't been told no, we can't give this to you," Nelson said.

Nelson said it is never too late to get a flu shot, in fact some people get it twice — at the beginning of the season in October and then close to the end.  He said you should be covered with the vaccine for four to seven months.

"There's been reports that the vaccine isn't as effective this year," said Nelson.  "I'd rather have some protection than no protection."

Dr. Nelson said there are also several types of flu shots available, including the normal vaccine or a so-called "super vaccine" that could help older patients or those with a weaker immune system.  You can find more information on the different types of vaccines from the Centers for Disease Control by clicking here.