Statewide flu outbreak prompts long ER wait times

Emergency rooms throughout the state are experiencing exorbitant volumes of patients due to a recent outbreak of flu cases.

In a statement released January 9, staff with Bellingham-based PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center reported a significant increase in positive cases since the flu season started on December 21. More than 150 emergency room patients had tested positive for the flu at the time the statement was released.

Staff with PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center are asking local residents to first consult their primary care physician or drop-in clinic provider if mild flu systems or other non-emergency health issues persist. These actions can reduce wait times for emergency patient care and limit the opportunity for exposure.

Flu symptoms can include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting. Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting as well as improved symptoms that later return with a spike in coughing or fever are serious signs of sickness and should be addressed with an emergency medical practitioner.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends staying home at least 24 hours after a fever has gone. For more tips from the CDC, visit cdc.gov/flu/takingcare.htm.

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