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Lehigh Valley, P.A. (MorichesDaily) — Across the Northeast hospital emergency rooms are knee-deep in flu and pneumonia cases, and this early flu season hasn’t even peaked yet. Flu season is in full effect and this one in particular is shaping up to be more extreme than usual.
The State Department of Health reports that four Pennsylvanians have already died of complications from the influenza virus.
Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest told NBC10 in Pennsylvania that they had to open an emergency space to care for the increased number of people with flu-like symptoms.
“If we can remove them from the main ED and put them in environment where everyone is masked and everyone can be protected, it’s safer for them and certainly safer for the staff,” said Terry Burger, hospital director of infection control.
The mobile surge tent is set up outside the emergency department.
Officials say a similar measure was taken during the H1N1 flu a few years ago.
The Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold says almost 150 people have been admitted to intensive care units with the flu this season and six have died.
Eight Chicago-area hospitals were turning away ambulances Monday night as they dealt with a flood of patients with flu-like symptoms.
That means the affected hospitals are asking ambulances to take patients elsewhere, if they can do so safely.
University of Chicago, Swedish Covenant, and Advocate Trinity hospitals said their emergency rooms were flooded Tuesday with people suffering from the flu.
Later this week, hospitals and clinics in southern Minnesota will announce visitor restrictions to help stop the spread, and some have already taking action in hit hard areas like Mankato and New Ulm.
Dr. Joan Krikava, medical director at New Ulm Medical Center, says the numbers are staggering. They’re seeing more people with the flu now than they did at the height of the H1N1 outbreak in 2009.
“We are seeing 50 to 100 extra patients in our clinics and hospitals. That’s about double the number of patients we see in a day. And in our hospital half of our patients have influenza,” Krikava said.
To prevent the spread of the flu, hospitals in this part of the state have implemented visitor restrictions.
“In our hospital we’re limiting visitors to immediate family, only we’re limiting the total number of visitors. And of course if you are ill they should not be visiting the hospital,” she said.
Flu season usually peaks in late January or early February, but by November the flu was already severe and widespread in some parts of the South and Southeast.
“As we have moved into the end of December and January, activity has really picked up in a lot more states,” said Tom Skinner, spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Twenty-nine states and New York City reported high levels of flu activity, up from 16 states and NYC the previous week.