Seasonal Flu Cases Spike At Local Emergency Rooms

Local hospitals are dealing with a large influx of influenza patients, but they have not been forced to set up overflow tents like facilities in bigger cities across the country.

Jill Tomassetti, Wheeling Hospital emergency room nurse manager, said 450 patients have been tested for the flu since Dec. 19 – and 140 of those tests were positive. And 19 people have had to be admitted to Wheeling Hospital with flu-like symptoms since Dec. 19.

”If people feel they need looked at they certainly should seek help,” Tomassetti said. ”I hear from people that they received the flu shot but it must not have worked. But it’s not going to cover you 100 percent. It can decrease the severity of the symptoms – there are still benefits.”

Tomassetti believes the steady flow of flu patients will continue because the season isn’t over yet.

”It will continue for awhile yet – at least another month,” she said.

Terrie Otte, Ohio Valley Medical Center emergency room nurse manager, said much like the rest of the nation, her hospital has seen a ”significant increase in patients” with the seasonal flu.

She noted a number of patients have gastroenteritis or norovirus, which people often call the stomach flu.

Since Dec. 8, she said, 10 people have been admitted to OVMC with influenza. Of the 75 people OVMC has tested for the flu, 80 percent of those tests were positive for the virus.

”Last year was not as bad. We’ve had a lot of cases and a lot earlier,” Otte said. ”The best way to protect yourself is to get a shot.”

Howard Gamble, Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department administrator, said his facility, located at 1500 Chapline St., still has flu vaccine available. Clinics are held there Mondays and Thursdays.

”We have had an increase in the number of people getting seasonal flu shots. The increase is over the last week and a half. We have also gone back out into the community to do flu vaccination clinics at local businesses. Our regional epidemiologist has also been busy with a number of regional isolated outbreaks, at schools, care facilities and assisted living facilities,” Gamble said, noting the health department’s vaccine is supplied by the state and ordered from a company.