Plenty of flu, but no crisis here

Published 1:56 am Saturday, January 13, 2018

Hospital averaging dozen flu tests daily; ER not diverting patients

Health care officials say the number of local flu cases is in line with outbreak numbers across the state, which have prompted Gov. Kay Ivey to declare a state health emergency.

Alabama’s acting state health officer, said Friday that among the eight public health districts in Alabama, seven have hospitals with more than 90 percent of their beds filled within those districts, and some are over capacity with patients waiting for rooms.

Related: What you can do to avoid the flu

Andalusia Health has seen a number of patients presenting with symptoms of the flu, CEO John Yanes said Friday. Specifically, Andalusia Health’s ER has conducted 167 flu tests with 40 positives since Jan. 1. Additionally, Andalusia Health Walk-In Clinic has experienced higher patient visits and it has seen 35 positive flu cases since Jan. 1.

As the outbreak continues, the Alabama Department of Public Health is encouraging those who have not had a flu shot to do so.

Local pharmacist David Darby said his employees have administered more than 400 shots in their two local pharmacies. He agrees it’s not too late to get the shot.

“If you still get the flu after a shot, it will be a weaker case of the flu,” he said. “Make sure to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer if you can’t wash your hands.”

At Bailey’s Pharmacy, the demand for Tamiflu is evidence the flu season is real.

“Bailey’s Pharmacy doesn’t offer flu vaccinations. However, we do have Tamiflu, and we have noticed an increase of prescriptions,” Jeff Bailey said. “Our wholesaler was actually out of Tamiflu at one point. I have also seen the reports of this year’s flu shot being less effective, and while you may not get the immunity there is still value in getting a flu shot. In the meantime, make sure to wash your hands and keep things santitized.”

Both Darby and Bailey speculated that the spike in flu cases this year could be related to fewer people getting flu shots.

Most of the admissions to Andalusia Health due to the flu is among elderly patients or patients with breathing complications, Yanes said.

The hospital continues to monitor daily flu activity as well as official announcements such as the state of emergency issued by Gov. Ivey, Yanes said.

“Our active internal coordination and constant monitoring of the situation has allowed us to care for our community without having to divert patients from the Emergency Department,” he said.

At this time, this is not a pandemic flu situation, but a major seasonal flu situation, according to the ADPH. There have not been any Alabama deaths reported relating to the flu.