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Hospitals Seeing Increase in Serious Flu Patients

Hospitals Seeing Increase in Serious Flu Patients; Advise Public to Consider Flu Vaccines

Lehigh Valley, PA (2/10/14)Jeffrey Jahre, MD, St. Luke's Senior Vice President for Medical and Academic Affairs and Chief, Infectious Diseases, and Luther Rhodes, MD, Lehigh Valley Health Network's Chief, Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control, remind the community that flu shots are still an effective way to prevent this year's flu strain.

Both physicians agree that the flu season has picked up momentum and is more fulminant, meaning people are feeling the symptoms very harshly. In fact, reasonably healthy people under age 50 who have not been vaccinated are becoming seriously ill very rapidly.

Both hospital systems are seeing patients who have deteriorated quickly from having normal flu symptoms that transition into a life-threatening situation in fewer than 24 hours. Currently, both hospitals are treating flu patients with Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO). “Extra corporeal” means outside the body, and the ECMO machine supports the functions of the heart and lungs. During ECMO treatment, the patient's heart and lungs continue to work, but because some of their workload is being relieved by the ECMO, recovery is possible.

Prevention

“Prevention is always better than treatment and remains the cornerstone of influenza care,” said Dr. Jahre. “The flu season is expected to continue well into April and for those who have not been vaccinated, I strongly suggest that all members of the family undergo vaccinations if possible.”

Vaccination

Dr. Rhodes said, “Flu vaccination is strongly encouraged for ALL ages beyond six months. Those who are young or pregnant are at especially high risk for severe influenza with the current strain.”

Flu vaccines are still available and are still effective in flu prevention for this season. The vaccine takes about 10 days to two weeks to establish immunity.

Treatment

Both physicians recommend seeing a family physician or urgent care center as a first step if you or a family member feels ill. If someone has severe flu symptoms, they should be seen in the emergency department.

Common Flu Symptoms

  • High fever of 102 degrees or higher (this would differentiate from the common cold, which exhibit with low-grade fevers 101 degrees and lower)
  • Muscle / body aches
  • Dry cough
  • Weakness / fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose

When to go to the emergency department (adults):

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that worsen

Contact

Denise Rader
Director of Network Media Relations
St. Luke's University Health Network
484-526-4104
denise.rader@sluhn.org

Brian Downs
Director of Media Relations
Lehigh Valley Health Network
484-884-0825
brian.downs@lvhn.org