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Medical emergency declared as flu numbers rise across state

Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state public health emergency Thursday as the result of a flu outbreak across Alabama.

The outbreak “poses a high probability of widespread exposure to an infectious agent that poses significant risk of substantial harm to a large number of people in the affected population,” according to the governor’s statement.

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The Alabama Department of Public Health said some hospitals are at or over normal patient capacity due in large part to the number of patients presenting with seasonal influenza-like symptoms. Emergency departments and outpatient clinics are also seeing very high volumes of patients. At this time, this is not a pandemic flu situation, but a major seasonal flu situation, a statement from the ADPH said.

In Birmingham and Huntsville, some schools closed due to the outbreak, and the health department is urging those with moderate symptoms to state at home.

“For people with mild to moderate flu or flu-like symptoms, please do not go to your doctor’s office without calling first and do not go to the emergency room,” the health department’s statement said. “Please call your doctor to see if you are eligible for antivirals without an appointment. Many insurance companies now have a ‘call a provider’ service to help with mild to moderate illnesses; please take advantage of this service before going to doctor or hospital.”

Patients who do visit an emergency department or outpatient clinic should expect long wait times, the health department said.

The health department also is encouraging employers and schools that require doctor excuses for absences to waive this requirement during this time to encourage those who are sick to stay home and not spread disease.

Local numbers were not immediately available Thursday afternoon, but will be updated as they are provided.