Whatcom County residents who have mild flu symptoms are being asked to contact their doctors first instead of going to the emergency room.
That’s because waiting rooms are packed with people seeking treatment for flu and other illnesses, according to Whatcom County public health officials.
“We’ve seen a large influx of flu patients, causing lengthy delays for patients in need of emergent care,” said Worth Everett, medical director of Trauma and Emergency Services at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, in a statement. “If you can postpone care until the morning, a medical clinic is a more appropriate place to be seen.”
Flu is now widespread in Washington state and most of the U.S., the state Department of Health said. A total of 109 people have died from the flu through Jan. 20, including four in Whatcom County.
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The emergency room is for people who are very sick, the county Health Department said, adding that most people who have mild flu symptoms – and who don’t have a high risk of flu complications – should stay home and avoid contact with other people, except to get medical care.
The majority of people with the flu have mild or moderate illness, health officials said, and don’t need medical care or antiviral drugs.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuff nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.
Signs that medical care is needed immediately include trouble breathing as well as flu-like symptoms that get better but then return with fever and a worse cough. In children, additional symptoms include bluish skin color and no tears when an infant is crying.
Learn more at cdc.gov/flu.