PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Some Rhode Island residents say they were forced to wait hours in the emergency room, and state officials say the flu is to blame.

The state Department of Health tells WJAR-TV they have seen “higher than usual” volumes at emergency departments statewide. A spokesman says the driving factor has been an extremely significant jump in flu cases across the state.

Three hospitals in Providence attempted to divert ambulances from their emergency departments earlier in January because they were overcome with patients.

They were ordered to reopen their departments because state regulations prevent more than two hospitals in the Northern Hospital Group from diverting ambulances at the same time.

The flu is a contagious virus and it can cause fever, headaches, cough, sore throat and body aches.