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Tri-State Area Health Officials Say Hospitals Overrun With Flu Cases

NYS Health Officials Report Four Times As Many Cases As All Of Last Winter
A woman is given a flu shot. (credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman is given a flu shot. (credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

CBS New York (con't)

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TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Chicken soup is great, but it’s going to take a lot more than that to whip the current flu epidemic.

Perhaps the most sought-after commodity in the New York area in recent days has sparked something of a stampede toward pharmacies, doctors offices and medical clinics.

Jessica Sessions, a physician at Ryan Community Health Center on the Upper West Side, said her clinic is twice is as crowded as on a normal Monday.

“It seems the majority of patients coming in are complaining of those flu-like symptoms,” Dr. Sessions told CBS 2′s Steve Langford.

On the Upper East Side pediatrician Dr. Laura Popper said she saw 60 patients on Friday alone.

“The flu is never to be taken for granted,” Popper said. “The flu is a rough thing to have.”

Doctors’ offices and medical clinics appear to have flu shots available, while pharmacies experienced widespread shortages over the weekend. However, that is starting to change.

CBS 2 canvassed half a dozen pharmacies on the Upper West Side on Monday. Just one had flu shots while another was getting a delivery as we were there.

“We would normally dispense one Tamiflu a week, if that much. We were going at actually maybe 20 a day,” said Leon Tarasenko, of Pasteur Pharmacy.

And those on the front lines of the flu frenzy cannot stress enough — do not mess with the flu, especially if you have a higher risk of complications.

“If you have asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and you feel like you’re getting the flu, you should go in and see your doctor,” Dr. Sessions said.

New York State health officials have reported more than four times as many flu cases so far this season compared to all of last winter.

THE SITUATION IN NEW JERSEY

New Jersey hospitals are in crisis mode with the widespread flu outbreak causing emergency rooms to burst at the seam, public health officials told an Assembly panel Monday.

“Frankly, I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Dr. Shelley Greenman, who works in the emergency room at Cooper University Hospital. “Everyone who has the flu feels like they’re going to die.”

With hospitals being overrun with patients complaining of flu-like symptoms, officials are urging patients to see their doctors before rushing to the emergency room.

EXTRA: Flu Resource Guide For The Tri-State Area

Hospitals have been trying to get a hold on the situation. Diane Anderson of the New Jersey Hospital Association said in many cases, flu patients are screened and separated as soon as they walk through the front door.

“They screen out who should end up over at the hospital and who should just go home, drink fluids and watch Oprah,” Assemblyman Eric Peterson said.

Over the weekend, concern over the growing flu epidemic caused Jersey City Medical Center to restrict who can visit patients.

A hospital spokesman said half of all emergency room cases at Jersey City Medical Center are flu-related.

The hospital imposed restrictions on anyone exhibiting flu-like symptoms and all children from visiting hospitalized patients. The restrictions will remain in place indefinitely, according to the hospital.

With a growing number of health care workers falling ill, Assemblyman Herb Conaway suggested a statewide flu shot mandate for health professionals.

“I cannot think of a reason, given the state of medical knowledge for someone who works in a hospital, not to get the flu vaccine,” Conaway said.

The Centers for Disease Control announced last week that flu is widespread in 47 states, with only California, Hawaii and Mississippi avoiding an outbreak. At least 20 children across the country have died from the flu.

Symptoms of the flu include fever, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.

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