People with Mild Flu Symptoms Urged to Avoid Seeking Treatment at Hospital Emergency Departments
Published on 19 December 2022 00:00
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 19, 2022
INDIANAPOLIS – Flu activity is high in many parts of the United States, including Indiana and locally in Marion County. Hospitals are reporting an increased number of cases for influenza, COVID-19 and RSV, and emergency departments are filled with people seeking medical care.
To help ease the demand on hospital emergency departments and intensive care units, the Marion County Public Health Department is requesting that anyone experiencing mild flu-like symptoms such as fever, sore throat, body aches, cough, and headache to seek evaluation and treatment first through a primary care provider, community health center, or urgent care center.
Virginia A. Caine, M.D., director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department, says hospital emergency departments have been overwhelmed, with some people waiting hours for treatment. Dr. Caine says those critical resources should be reserved for the sickest individuals experiencing a medical emergency.
Anyone exhibiting severe flu-like symptoms, including high fever, severe headache, difficulty breathing, confusion, severe weakness or unsteadiness with an inability to walk, seizures, and persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, should still seek medical treatment immediately at a hospital emergency department.
Dr. Caine says patients who are seen by a medical care provider for flu-like illness should receive antiviral treatment, even before any lab confirmation of flu. When used for treatment, antiviral medication can lessen symptoms and shorten the time a person is sick by 1-2 days.
She also recommends a flu shot for everyone age 6 months and older, and the updated COVID-19 bivalent vaccine for those who need a booster or for anyone who has not yet received a dose of the vaccine.
“Getting vaccinated is the most effective way to protect against influenza and COVID-19,” adds Dr. Caine. “These vaccines, which can be given at the same time, can shorten the length and the severity of illness for those who become infected, especially among individuals at high risk for complications or hospitalization.”
Wearing a high-quality mask when in crowded places is also recommended to help prevent the spread of flu and COVID-19. Since influenza is more aggressive this year, the combination of a flu shot and wearing a mask helps keep people healthy as many prepare for holiday gatherings.
Other ways to reduce the spread of flu include:
- Washing hands frequently
- Covering all coughs and sneezes
- Staying home when feeling sick or experiencing flu-like symptoms
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces at home that are touched often, using a general household cleaner and following label directions
All hospitals in Marion County recently implemented temporary visitor restrictions to better protect patients, staff and other visitors from the flu.
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