Emergency rooms are having a difficult time handling the sheer volume of patients suffering from the 2018 influenza strain and hospitals are scrambling to find ways to keep up.
The 2017-2018 influenza strain is expected to kill more than 50,000 people this flu season–the highest number casualties since 2014. Unlike other years where the flu outbreak experiences peaks and troughs, this year’s strain is maintaining an unusually high rate of infection across the country.
As a result, emergency departments are seeing a huge influx in patients seeking treatment for the flu, creating a sort of run on hospitals around the nation. By mid-January, the number of patients seeking treatment for the flu exceeded every year in recent memory other than the 2009-2010 flu season.
Hospitals are creating makeshift treatment centers because emergency departments are overflowing, The Wall Street Journal reports. A number of hospital systems across the country are reporting upwards of 250-400 flu patients per day.
An Atlanta-based hospital is treating 25 percent more flu patients this year than the previous flu season. To keep up with the volume, the hospital created a mobile treatment center in its parking lot, equipped with enough supplies and beds to treat 14 patients.
Other hospitals are working hard twice as hard to triage patients, trying to safe much-needed space for older, more at-risk patients. Healthier, younger patients are more likely to need minor medical treatment, as their bodies are better able to handle the flu.
Some additional measures are getting put in place, like wardening off flu patients into separate waiting rooms and treatment areas, so as to keep the spread of the illness to a minimum. Hospitals are also reporting having to postpone operations and other treatments to focus on caring for growing number of flu patients.
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