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People with mild flu symptoms urged not to seek treatment at hospital ERs

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Posted at 5:38 PM, Dec 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-19 17:38:00-05

INDIANAPOLIS –Marion County Public Health Department is asking that people with mild flu symptoms such as fever, sore throat, body aches, cough, and headache avoid the ER to ease the demand on emergency hospital departments.

The rise of flu, COVID-19 and RSV cases in Indiana has led to an overwhelming amount of people seeking medical care at hospital emergency rooms, but the health department says people should seek evaluation from a primary care provider, community health center, or urgent care center first.

Dr. Caine, director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department, says that the critical resources of emergency rooms should be reserved for the sickest individuals.

Severe flu-like symptoms include high fever, severe headache, difficulty breathing, confusion, severe weakness or unsteadiness with an inability to walk, seizures and persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen.

Anyone experiencing these symptoms is urged to immediately seek medical treatment at a hospital emergency department.

Dr. Caine also says that patients being seen by a medical provider for flu symptoms should receive antiviral medication, which can lessen symptoms and shorten the time a person is sick by 1-2 days.

Still, she recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot and the updated COVID-19 bivalent vaccine.

“Getting vaccinated is the most effective way to protect against influenza and COVID-19,” Dr. Caine said. “These vaccines, which can be given at the same time, can shorten the length and the severity of illness for those who become infected, especially among individuals at high risk for complications or hospitalization.”

Wearing a mask in crowded places is also recommended in preparation for holiday gatherings.

Other ways to reduce the spread of flu include:

  • Washing hands frequently
  • Covering all coughs and sneezes
  • Staying home when feeling sick or experiencing flu-like symptoms
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces at home that are touched often, using a general household cleaner and following label directions  

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