Hospitals hit hard by flu, other respiratory viruses


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(NewsNation) — Doctors and hospitals across the country are battling a flu epidemic — and as a result, hospitals in some places are imposing visitor restrictions.

The hospitals in Indiana’s largest health system, and all of Marion County, announced Monday that they would begin visitor restrictions again because of the flu and other respiratory viruses.

For Indiana University Health hospitals, restrictions only allow immediate family, two at a time and no visitors younger than 18, except parents or guardians. No one is allowed with flu-like or COVID-19 symptoms and masking is required,

Meanwhile, in Washington, Seattle Children’s Hospital set up a tent outside to help with an influx of patients. Their emergency room at times reports being at close to 300% capacity.

Medical director Dr. Tony Woodward says the emergency department feels like it’s at a “breaking point.”

“We are beyond our maximum of doing things,” he said. “We haven’t lowered our standard of care, but we’re working very hard to maintain our standard of care.”

In a media call detailed by Barron’s, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who heads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said flu and respiratory syncytial virus cases (RSV) are higher than normal this time of year nationwide.

She encouraged vaccination, as well as mask-wearing, especially in parts of the U.S. that are considered by the CDC to have high levels of COVID.

“We’re at a higher level today than we’ve been at any point in time in the last eight years,” Dr. Joe Thompson of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement said.

Todd Kisner, director of the Winnebago County Health Department in Illinois, said with people not masking up as often in public places, influenza has been given the chance to “spread just like COVID does through the air.”

The CDC estimates so far this season, there have been at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations and more than 4,000 deaths from the flu.

At Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Hany Atallah says the worst could be yet to come.

“When you talk about the winter cold and flu season, you’re usually talking about October-November and then it wraps up in April, so those are the months we’re really on the lookout,” Atallah said.

This all comes amid concern over a “tripledemic” of respiratory illnesses: the flu, COVID-19 and RSV, which is seeing a growing number of children ending up in the hospital, including Samantha Richards’ daughter.

“She started having difficulty breathing,” Richards said. “She was working really hard to breathe so it just went awry really quickly.”

Some flu symptoms to look out for this season including trouble walking, trouble eating or drinking, or becoming confused.

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