Doctor: Don't Try To Be A Hero And Tough It Out

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — It seemed like a quiet flu season this year, but the risk is growing rapidly. New York is showing a dramatic increase in the number of serious infections and emergency room visits, and doctors are trying to figure out the reason.

“I feel so miserable,” Chelsea resident Lisa Roberts-Lehan said. “I haven’t been this sick in years.”

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Roberts-Lehan was suffering through the flu outside a 24-hour clinic, and she’s not alone. The Centers for Disease Control is reporting widespread cases of influenza in several states this New Year, mostly in the south – and in New York, reports CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis.

“It’s in my chest, it’s in my head, I’ve been sleeping all day long,” Roberts-Lehan said. “I didn’t even think I’d be able to make it here today.”

New York City’s Health Department has released some startling numbers. There were about 200 flu cases a day in October and some 300 cases in November, with similar numbers in early December.

Right around Christmas, however, flu cases spiked to about 500 cases a day. Around the New Year, save for a brief dip, the flu in the city is widespread.

“It’s not unusual. This is the time of year when we begin to see an uptick in influenza cases,” said Dr. Bruce Polsky of St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital.

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Dr. Polsky, an internist, said it’s no wonder flu cases are spiking after the holidays – everyone’s been in airports, stuck in public places, wiping noses and sneezing into the open air. It’s the perfect combination to lead to a trip to the emergency room.

“There’s a lot of social activity during the holidays, a lot of opportunity,” Dr. Polsky said.

Once a patient gets to the ER, doctors say their job is to keep the symptoms from getting any worse, but for most patients the flu can be treated at home.

“It usually starts off with headache, body aches, fever, runny nose, sore throat, things like that,” emergency room Dr. Juan Arozco said.

Orozco said those symptoms are typically treatable with over-the-counter medications and preventable with frequent hand-washing. He said the danger, though, comes from patients trying to tough it out.

“Don’t ever wait too long,” Dr. Orozco said. “If you feel that this is something beyond a cold, definitely seek some medical attention.”

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That’s exactly what people like Roberts-Lehan are doing – heading to the doctors, and then hoping for relief.