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Flu season puts strain on Indianapolis hospitals

If symptoms are mild, see your doctor first
When does flu season begin?
Posted at 7:31 PM, Jan 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-03 19:31:49-05

INDIANAPOLIS — The Marion County Public Health Department is asking people with "mild" flu-like symptoms not to seek treatment at hospital emergency rooms.

According to the department, the percentage of emergency room visits in Marion County by patients complaining of influenza-like illness has reached a 10-year high, a number that is a "growing concern."

Dr. Virginia Caine, the Marion County Public Health Department Director, is asking that anyone with mild flu-like symptoms first go to their own doctor, a community health center or an urgent care center. But if symptoms are severe, patients should go to a hospital emergency room immediately.

What are severe flu-like symptoms? The list from the health department includes high fever, difficulty breathing, severe weakness or unsteadiness with an inability to walk, seizures, and persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen.

Caine says patients who go to their own doctor or a clinic for flu-like illness should receive antiviral treatment, even before any lab confirmation of flu. When used for treatment, antiviral medication can lessen symptoms and shorten the time a person is sick by one or two days.

"Flu season typically runs through April, so it's important for everyone to get a flu shot," said Caine. "The vaccine is the most effective way to prevent influenza. It can also shorten the length and the severity of illness for those who become infected with the virus."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a flu shot for everyone 6-months and older.