Health Officials: Flu Cases Crowding Iowa Emergency Rooms

By Heather Hubbs, Reporter

VNA member of 13 years, Mary Knight, of Solon fills up syringes during a flu vaccination clinic at Wickham Elementary School in Coralville on Wednesday, October 3, 2012. The clinics are widely available and The Visiting Nurses Association, accepts Medicare, Blue Cross, and other insurance and also provides vaccinations for children without a doctor's order. (Kyle Grillot/The Gazette-KCRG)


By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - This is the worst start to the flu season in more than a decade. More than 22-hundred people are sick, many packing hospitals across the country. The CDC says influenza is widespread to 41 states. Some of the worst cases are in the Midwest. In Minnesota, at least 27 have died, another 6 in Illinois, 13 in Indiana. So far, no deaths have been reported in Iowa. In Cedar Rapids, St. Luke's has tested more than 1,000 people for the flu since November, of those about 200 have tested positive for influenza. At Mercy, they've had 272 confirmed cases. Not only is this one of the worst flu seasons because of the high number of cases, those impacted say they've never felt so awful. "Felt like I was beat with a truck, like someone knocked me over." Stephanie St. John is finally recovering from a 10 day bought with the flu. "I sing in church and I went to sing and realized I wasn't singing alto I was singing bass so that was first then the headache and the aches," said St. John. Stephanie is one of hundreds in the area who have battled the flu, and doctors believe the worst is still to come. If you come down with symptoms, you're advised to call the doctor right away to get medicine. "It doesn't cure the flu it just makes the symptoms better, maybe shortens the illness but you have to have them within 24-48 hours of the symptoms," said Dr. Timothy Quinn, Mercy Care Physician. To help prevent the spread of the disease doctors recommenced, washing hands, keeping clean, and containing germs. Which is why many hospitals and doctors offices, such as Mercy, have kiosks at every entrance with face masks, tissues, and hand sanitizer. Health officials say it's not too late to get a flu shot. "Even if you're exposed today or tomorrow you will start building immunities from a flu shot you would get today," said Dr. Quinn. Stephanie certainly wishes she had gotten the vaccine. "I don't like needles but I'd rather have a needle for a second than this for 10 days," said St. John. Health officials in the central Iowa are asking people with minor illnesses to avoid hospital emergency rooms because of an influx of flu-related cases. Officials at several hospitals in the Des Moines area said Thursday that local emergency rooms are experiencing heavy volumes of patients and wait times due to flu cases. They recommend that people with non-life-threatening illnesses visit their primary health care provider, a local urgent care or walk-in clinic. So far hospitals in Cedar Rapids have not restricted visitors, but both say they will in the infection rate increases and they believe patients could be at risk. Iowa health officials have noted a jump in flu cases this season. They are encouraging residents to get vaccinated. Replay our live chat about the flu:

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