Bristol Hospital dealing with early arrival, the flu

by KAITLYN NAPLES

The flu came early this season, and has peaked at a much higher level, according to Dr. Leonard Banco, chief medical officer at Bristol Hospital.

“We started seeing more patients just after Thanksgiving, and after the holidays it just took off,” Banco said, adding that hospital beds are full and patients are starting to have to wait in the hospital’s emergency room to be admitted.

Last year, Banco said there were virtually no cases of the flu, yet this year it seems to be spreading like wildfire.

Last week,Boston’s Department of Public Health declared a public health emergency, after more than a dozen reported flu-related deaths.

“We are in the same situation as every other hospital in the state,” Banco said, adding that he is urging the public to get a flu-shot if they haven’t already.

Employees ofBristolHospitalwere required to receive the shot, and all but a small percentage did so. That small percentage of employees who did not receive the shot did so because of religious, health, or other restrictions.

“We are encouraging everyone at the hospital to wash their hands, and if they are sick, to not come in,” Banco said.

For the public, Banco said he would urge residents having trouble breathing, or those who have other medical conditions and have come in contact with the flu, to visit the hospital. Those experience flu-like symptoms, but aren’t in a serious condition, should take fever and pain relievers like Tylenol or Advil, as well as drink plenty of fluids. Banco said drinking fluids even if you aren’t thirsty is important because you are breathing heavier and lungs and airways are clogged.

“The flu is typically a five-day illness,” Banco said, adding that patients need to know that it will take time to get over the symptoms. Unlike immunizations given to children that last several years or a lifetime, immunization to the flu needs to be renewed every year, Banco said.

According to Flu.gov, symptoms of the flu are typically: a 100 degree or higher fever or feeling feverish; a cough and/or sore throat; runny or stuffy nose; headaches and/or body aches; chills; fatigue; nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children). The website said if you are experiencing the following symptoms, to seek medical attention: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; purple or blue discoloration of the lips; pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen; sudden dizziness; confusion; severe or persistent vomiting; seizures; flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.