Flu Outbreak 2013: How Are Hospitals Coping?

This season marks the worst influenza outbreak in 10 years, and hospitals around the country are pressed to meet mounting patient volumes while reinforcing infection control.  

The city of Boston declared a public health emergency yesterday after recording more than 700 cases of the flu, which is 10 times the total number for last year's flu season. Four percent of emergency department visits to Boston hospitals were for flu cases this week, with 25 percent of those requiring hospitalization, according to a USA TODAY report.

Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston is treating up to 80 patients per day who report flulike symptoms in its clinics and ED. The emergency room at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston is also overflowing, and the hospital received 400 more calls than normal to its urgent-care hotline on Monday, according to the report.

In Chicago, eight hospitals were forced to direct ambulances elsewhere Monday and Tuesday after they reached full-capacity for flu patients. Those facilities include University of Chicago Medical Center, Swedish Covenant Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which has experienced a daily 20 percent increase in flu patients, according to an ABC News report.

Lehigh Valley (Pa.) Hospital-Cedar Crest opened an emergency tent, located outside its facility, to care for an overflowing number of flu patients. Hospital officials reasoned that removing the contagious patients from the hospital's main ED is safer for patients and staff alike, according to a Moriches Daily report.

The outbreak is also affecting hospitals' visitation policies. Fourteen hospitals in Minnesota, including Rochester-based Mayo Clinic Health System, restricted visitors to reinforce infection control yesterday, according to a Minnesota Public Radio report. Other hospitals, including some in Ohio and Virginia, are also encouraging the use of masks in facilities to lessen transmission of the flu.

More Articles on Hospitals and the Flu:

Rise in Flu Cases Contributes to ED Crowding
CDC Reports Increased Flu Rates Across U.S.
Survey: 67% of Healthcare Employees Received Flu Vaccination

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