At one local hospital, they’ve run out of beds for patients multiple times the past month while dealing with an influx of flu patients.
The flu season is the worst Dr. Christopher Doehring, the vice president of medical affairs at Franciscan Health Indianapolis, has seen in the past decade, he said.
Data from the Indiana Department of Health, which tracks the amount of flu cases, shows that the number of people getting the flu is much higher than in recent years. At one local clinic, as many as 90 percent of the people coming in for treatment are there because of the flu.
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If a patient coming to Franciscan Health in an ambulance isn’t in critical condition, officials may divert them to another hospital for treatment when beds are too full, Doehring said.
But when someone absolutely has to be admitted and treated, the hospital has resorted to using beds in the emergency department, and at times have had as many as 25 patients staying in rooms there, Doehring said.
Last week, the amount of patients coming to hospitals with an influenza-like illness was 5.9 percent, a one-week figure higher than any point in the past four years, according the Indiana State Department of Health.
This flu season is on track to be the worst since at least the 2013-14 season, according to the state.
A U.S. government report released Friday shows 1 of every 13 visits to the doctor the week prior was for fever, cough and other symptoms of the flu. That ties the highest level seen in the U.S. during swine flu in 2009 and surpasses every winter flu season since 2003, when the government changed the way it measures flu, according to The Associated Press.
With how long the flu season has remained serious, Doehring said he hopes that the situation will improve soon.
“At some point the virus has to start burning out because everyone has been exposed to it,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll start seeing the burden taper off soon because there aren’t many people left who haven’t been exposed to it.”
At The Little Clinic inside the Kroger store at State Road 135 and Smokey Row Road, the vast majority of patients coming in for treatment have been because of the flu, nurse practitioner Brenda Adamson said.
She estimates that more than 90 percent of the cases they’ve seen the past month have been flu-related, including times where they’ve had entire families come in sick with the flu.
But it also includes people coming in for flu shots, which Adamson still recommends, despite how late it is in the flu season. Because of how severe the flu season has been, anyone who hasn’t yet been vaccinated would still benefit from doing so, she said.
At the Johnson County Health Department, the number of flu shots they’ve given out is down from the year, which is a surprise given the increased severity of the flu season, director of nursing Lisa Brown said.
Though this time last year, they had performed 300 vaccinations. This year, that number is under 200, she said.
At the health department, the vaccinations range from free, for children who receive Medicaid benefits, to $20 for adults who are uninsured. Even in February, Brown’s recommendation is that residents take an opportunity to get a flu shot if possible.
Flu cases are on the rise in Indiana this year. Here’s a look at the percent of patients going to the hospital who have influenza-like illnesses each week since the start of the year:
Source: Indiana State Department of Health