Birmingham, AL— As of January 10, 2018 Birmingham area hospitals are at or over normal patient capacity due in large part to the number of patients presenting with seasonal influenza-like symptoms. Local emergency departments and outpatient clinics are also seeing very high volumes of patients. This is not a pandemic flu situation, but a major seasonal flu situation. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 5% to 20% of the U.S. population will get the flu. On average, about 200,000 Americans are hospitalized each year due to flu-related complications. As many as 49,000 people die each year from flu-related illnesses in the U.S.
The Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) and the Birmingham-area medical community urge residents with minor flu or flu-like symptoms to refrain from going to hospital emergency departments to avoid over-stressing the community’s resources. Mild cases of the flu usually do not require a hospital visit. “Our area hospitals and emergency departments are seeing an influx of patients that are seriously ill. If a person has a flu-like illness without signs of SERIOUS illness, he/she should remain at home. We recommend that they call their doctor first if they are unsure,” says Dr. Mark Wilson, Jefferson County Health Officer.
Patients who do visit an emergency department or outpatient clinic should be aware of long wait times. All local hospitals are taking necessary steps to ensure that patients receive appropriate care. This issue is occurring nation-wide, not just in the Birmingham area. The situation is expected to continue for several days.
Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly.
People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
People who are at high-risk for developing flu related complications are:
- Young children (younger than 5, but especially younger than 2 years old)
- Adults 65 years of age and older
- Pregnant women
- People with medical conditions such as a weakened immune system, asthma, heart disease, and diabetes
- Residents of long-term care facilities
There are ways you can protect yourself, family and friends:
- Get the flu vaccine if you are 6 months of age and older
- Cover your cough and sneeze
- Wash your hands
- Clean living and working areas
- Avoid crowds
- Stay home from work or school if you are sick
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth