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Flu cases causing big spike in ER visits

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Updated: 12/31/2013 8:54 am
ATLANTA, Ga. (WSB) -- Doctors say in the last week, they have seen a big spike in the number of flu cases.

To get treatment, some doctors are advising against going to the emergency room. They say the best thing to do is see your primary care physician, take medicine and stay at home so you don't expose others. 

Physicians say that also helps keep the wait times down at ER's for those who have more serious conditions.

"There are over 16,000 cases each month that are confirmed positive for flu," said Dr. Edward Espinosa as he was going over a graph from the CDC's website.

Some charts from the CDC show Georgia is at an elevated level for the flu and 22 percent above the national average for flu cases.

Espinosa is a concierge doctor and his business is growing since many want to avoid wait time in ERs. Some ER times can top seven hours.

"Typical concierge practices range from $1,200 a year to $5,000 a year depending on the services and demand," Espinosa explained.

Espinosa says going to the ER when a patient has the flu can make things worse for the patient and others around them.

"Not having to sit in an emergency room for five to seven hours can provide patients a benefit. In addition to sitting in the ER for five to seven hours, that exposes the patient to the virus and other illnesses," Espinosa explained. 

He also says he's seen a more flu cases this year compared to last year.

Channel 2's Craig Lucie also spoke with a pharmacist at Tuxedo Pharmacy who says she's seen a spike.

"I feel like I have seen a lot more in December than ever before than last year," said Erin Weinrich.

Lucie also went to the ER at Piedmont Hospital and met Dr. Patricia Meadors.

"We are seeing a lot more now. They seem be compressed for a period of time until December," said Meadors.

Meadors says the flu this year is different than last year's strain.

"It's all been one type which is H1N1 and that's different from last year when we had a mixture of A and B," explained Meadors.

Doctors say H1N1 can also be resistant to the flu vaccine. 

"Calling their primary care doctor is really the way to go. There is not a specific treatment besides Tamiflu. It's better to stay at home where you can and not expose other people," said Meadors.
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Kate S - 1/1/2014 10:08 AM
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After reading this article, going to the ER for the flu doesn't seem like a very good idea. But in other cases, a web site to consider is hospitalstats.org - this compares wait times in hospitals all across the country.
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