Flu Bug Keeps EMSA Busy

Monday, February 11th 2008, 5:38 pm
By: News On 6

The cold weather and peak of the flu season has EMSA crews busier than normal.  Most of their calls are to help people dealing with flu-like symptoms.  News On 6 anchor Scott Thompson reports EMSA is used to making more runs this time of year.  But, an abnormal strain of the flu may be the reason crews are close to the highest number of calls they've ever taken.

An EMSA medic spent his first few minutes on the job Monday preparing for a very busy day at EMSA headquarters at 1417 North Lansing.  Besides the typical runs for chest pain or the transportation of accident victims, EMSA medics are seeing something quite different over the past few weeks.

"It's colds.  It's flu-like symptoms, and then we also have a variety of stomach illnesses," said EMSA's Tina Wells.

The numbers show EMSA crews are just as busy now as they were during December's ice storm.

In the seven days following the storm, EMSA averaged 196 calls a day totaling more than 1,300 calls for the week. Compared to the first week of February when EMSA averaged 171 calls a day and had 1,200 calls at the beginning of flu season.

"You know, when we're busy the whole city is in a state of not well health," added EMSA's Tina Wells.

Health officials say one reason for the large number of calls is a strain of the flu that's sets itself apart from others.  It's called Influenza B, but the health department says it's no more dangerous than other strains of the flu. The problem is that, right now, there's not a vaccine to prevent it.

A spokeswoman for Hillcrest Medical Center confirms its ER is seeing more patients with flu-like symptoms. But, there is a way to keep the virus from spreading, simply wash your hands.

"Really when you do things that you normally don't think about. Touching doorknobs when you go to open a door, when you talk on the telephone someone else may have used because germs can stay on those surfaces and they can make you sick," said Tina Wells with EMSA.

The health department says this year's flu is following the typical pattern, but they are concerned enough to ask doctors to test people with symptoms to see if they have Influenza B, something doctor's are normally not required to do.