St. John Medical Center Seeing Younger Flu Patients This Season

Thursday, January 23rd 2014, 5:35 pm
By: News On 6

Eight more Oklahomans have died of the flu.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health released its latest numbers on Thursday and it shows the number of flu cases is on the rise.

The rising number of cases is putting a strain on hospitals.

It's been non-stop in the emergency room at St. John Medical Center.

"It's been crazy," RN/Triage nurse Judy Stevenson said. "We've seen lots and lots of patients with flu-like symptoms.

1/23/2014 Related Story: Flu Deaths Jump By 8; Hospitalizations Increase 44 Percent In Oklahoma

St. John reports it has admitted 50 people with the flu since October.

The total number is not unusual, but what makes this year different is the ages of the people who have contracted the virus.

The median age of flu patients at St. John is 35 years old.

"Traditionally in the past, we've seen the older patients get the flu, but now it's really more younger patients, as young as 3- and 4-months-old to patients who are 70.

So it's not just the elderly who are getting the flu this year.

The state agency says the number of flu cases is on the rise. Just in the past week alone 176 new cases across the state were confirmed, and 46 of those are in Tulsa County.

The same goes for the number of deaths: Eight people have died in the last week, bringing the total since October to 20 to four deaths in Tulsa County.

"We've had a hard time finding beds upstairs for patients because the hospital has been so full of patients because people are super sick," Stevenson said.

St. John relies on a command center to manage where patients are and where they should go.

It keeps track of hospitals in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

"Based on what we're seeing, every emergency department in this region is at capacity, the hospitals are at capacity, the emergency departments are frequently overwhelmed," Director of Emergency and Trauma Services Keith Veit said.

Not all of those patients have the flu, but the health department says it's clear flu season is far from over.

St. John said even though the hospitals are at or near capacity, you should still go to the emergency room if you're so sick you need emergency care.

If you're just showing symptoms or don't feel well, you should go to your family doctor first.