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Emergency rooms full as flu outbreak continues

Posted at 11:35 PM, Jan 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-12 08:03:11-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- You could experience longer wait times at your local hospital, as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports a sharp increase in flu cases all over the country. 

Several people at Gulf Coast Medical Center's ER reported a packed room. Brian Nauman described many people in the waiting room wearing medical masks. "There are some people in there that are sick, it's definitely crowded in there," he said.

Over the last two weeks, Lee Health reports more than 300 people tested positive for Influenza B, a huge spike compared to the less than 150 cases reported this time last year. 

Those who choose to go to the hospital for the flu cannot be guaranteed a wait time according to a Lee Health spokes person, who says patients with sever conditions are seen first; like Nauman, who broke his rib. "I didn't take too long because I was triaged and I guess it was an emergency."

A spokesperson adds websites that claim to share estimated wait times at ER's do not always have reliable information.

Instead of rushing to the ER for flu symptoms, Lee Health officials recommend going to one of their 4 walk-in clinics. A list can be found here

They also recommend going to your primary care doctor. Dr. Krista Zivkovic, primary care doctor in Cape Coral, agrees. "Most of the time, people who have true flu don't even come to their doctor's office," she said. "If we can treat you within 3 days at the start of your symptoms, we can get you medication that's anti-viral that will help decrease your symptoms."

Dr. Zivkovic said after that window of time, patients could experience symptoms for up to two weeks. 

However, with the CDC reporting an increase of flu-related deaths in 2017, 4 In Your Corner wanted to know what symptoms warrant a visit to the emergency room. "If they cannot keep down any fluids, usually if they can't tolerate liquids for four or five hours, and they're not able to even urinate because they've so dehydrated, then they would need some IV fluid replacement," Dr. Zivkovic said.