Metro medical centers overwhelmed with flu cases

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's been a busy weekend at local emergency rooms.

Rooms in local medical centers are in high demand, since doctors say they're overwhelmed with people suffering from the flu.

HCA Midwest reports its seeing nearly 60 percent more flu cases than a year ago, and the concern is getting serious at its metro hospitals.

Doctors at Truman Medical Centers in midtown Kansas City say their emergency room has been filled with people complaining of body aches, coughing and fevers -- symptoms that show the flu is spreading again.

Patients, such as California transplant Mimi Loran, say it's been a tough winter. Loran, who works in a metro office, spent three months being sick for long stretches.

“That got really bad. I couldn't walk down the hall. It turned into a sinus infection,” Loran said.

Loran says it started in November, when doctors told her she had the flu, with nausea, fever, and an overall achy feeling, and she's still not back to 100 percent, but she can’t miss work.

“You don't want to call in sick to work for just a cold or the flu. It's hard sometimes to persevere and go to work when you can't even stand,” Loran said on Monday.

Public health departments in Jackson County, Mo. and Johnson County, Kan. have similar numbers, indicating that flu cases are adding up, even since last week. Doctors say it's a persistent strain that most patients are contracting, including Loran.

“(The flu) took me a week to get over. A full week to really get over,” Loran said.

Doctors at Truman Medical Centers say every bed in their hospital is taken, and many patients need care for the flu. Dr. Gary Salzman, a pulmonologist with the hospital, says this is one of the worst cases of influenza he’s seen in over 30 years on the job. He advises patients of the flu’s contagious nature, and to stay home in order to quarantine the virus and to help the patient recover quickly.

“A lot of people will start off with the flu, and have it develop into a bacterial pneumonia. Those people can be very, very sick, and get respiratory failure and end up on a respirator,” Dr. Salzman told FOX 4 News.

“People are storming the emergency department. The hospitals are getting full. The ERs around town are full. This is a very, very busy flu season.”

For those determined to be at work, Dr. Salzman advises fluids, pain reliever and for their co-workers to wash their hands often -- but he reminds everyone that working while sick puts others at risk.

Dr. Salzman told FOX 4 News it's not too late to get the flu shot, even for patients who've already had the flu. However, he recommends that patients wait until their fevers are gone. This can help prevent another strain of sickness from coming on.

Doctors also say the spread might not end for awhile. Dr. Salzman says he believes the flu could be persistent until early march, based on research he’s read from the Center for Disease Control.