Local hospitals are reporting a record number of patients with symptoms of the influenza virus.
A report from the Houston Public Health Department gathered data from 40 local hospitals, showing some 13 percent of the patients who visited local emergency rooms during the final week of 2017 came to the facility with flu-like symptoms.
Children under four years of age represented more than 40 percent of those who sought emergency treatment for the flu.
“We’re very busy, to put it mildly,” Dr. Michael Chang, an infectious disease specialist at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospitals, said in an interview with a Houston newspaper. “It’s not just patients. Many staff aren’t able to come to work because they’re home with kids.”
Some local hospitals reportedly reached capacity, with flu patients occupying hundreds of hospital beds across the area.
The epidemic is expected to remain on the rise, as well, with young children heading back to school, potentially surrounded by classmates who are either showing symptoms of the disease or already carrying the virus.
Dr. Eric Thomas, a teaching professor at UT McGovern Medical School, said in an interview with a local TV station patients can get prescriptions for the anti-flu drug Tamiflu over the phone, rather than waiting at a doctor’s office or in a hospital emergency room:
“It (Tamiflu) can also prevent the flu but we like to reserve it for people who are at high risk for getting complications with it,” Dr. Thomas said further.
The overcrowding of flu patients in hospitals is reportedly leading many patients to seek out care in clinics or emergency care facilities.
Dr. Zeeshan Shaikh, a physician at Southwest Urgent and Family Care, recommends patients with severe symptoms go to the ER, rather than a walk-in clinic:
“I tried to send a few patients to the hospital and they told me there were long waiting times, more than 12-15 hours in the big hospitals, so they were ending up in urgent care. But, honestly speaking, if they had developed pneumonia or serious complication, we cannot manage it in urgent care,” Shaikh said in an interview with a local TV station.
Take care of yourself, Houston. Some companies say washing hands or chicken soup may do the body good.