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Health Team

Flu overruns area emergency rooms

Posted February 11, 2011 1:53 p.m. EST
Updated February 11, 2011 6:51 p.m. EST

— The number of patients complaining of flu-like symptoms has spiked in hospital emergency rooms across the Triangle in recent weeks.

At WakeMed in Raleigh, for example, emergency room physicians treated about 300 people last month for flu, compared with 32 in December.

Dr. Robert Park said the the number is soaring because many people have skipped getting a flu shot this season after worries about the H1N1 flu virus prompted more people to get vaccinated a year ago.

"Last year, there was no flu really, no major flu season," Park said. "This year, it's come back with vengeance."

Asi Jackson said he simply didn't think about getting a flu shot.

Sharon Evans, meanwhile, said she makes a point of getting a shot every year.

"The last time I had the flu, I thought I was absolutely going to die, and I didn't want to get it again," Evans said.

A flu shot is needed annually because the flu strains usually change from one year to the next, Park said.

For symptoms like fever, chills and body aches, he recommended that people see their primary care physician first and then head to the ER if the symptoms become worse.

"If you start having horrible symptoms like dizziness, passing out, difficulty breathing – red-flag symptoms that something's not right – then absolutely, you should be seen," he said.

Otherwise, he said, getting plenty of rest and fluids and taking Motrin or Tylenol for the aches and fever are the best treatments for the flu.