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Wichita hospitals see sharp rise in patients with flulike symptoms

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, at 5:22 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, at 7:32 p.m.

Area hospitals are seeing a large increase in the number of patients suffering from the flu or similar illnesses, hospital officials said Wednesday.

Illnesses include influenza A and B and gastrointestinal illness causing dehydration. In children, doctors are seeing pneumonia and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

Symptoms, which are similar for all of these illnesses, include cough, congestion, sore throat, fever and body aches.

Hospital officials say people who suspect they may be ill shouldn’t visit friends or relatives in the hospital.

Wesley Medical Center is diverting patients to other facilities because it is at capacity, said Susan Burchill, Wesley public relations specialist.

Lois Rahal, Wesley infection prevention nurse, said that if you think you have the flu, stay home, rest and take Tylenol or ibuprofen to reduce fever. She said children who are ill shouldn’t be given aspirin.

Rahal also urged people to wash hands, use hand sanitizer, wipe off grocery cart handles and cover the mouth by coughing into an elbow.

Via Christi’s hospitals are seeing patients from other hospitals that are at capacity, including those from rural parts of the Kansas and as far away as Oklahoma City.

Via Christi isn’t canceling elective procedures, but it is expediting discharges to increase the number of patients who can be served.

Andrea Snyder, registered nurse and clinical care coordinator for Via Christi Hospitals in Wichita, said they saw an increase in respiratory flu patients starting before Christmas and that the numbers have continued to rise. She said hospitals expect the increase to continue through the weekend.

Via Christi officials are urging people who think they are sick to contact their primary care doctor and avoid the emergency room if their illness is mild.

For children who may have RSV, Wesley Medical Center has an outpatient bronchiolitis clinic for infants up to one year; at the clinic, a respiratory therapist can see them to clear out mucus.

The clinic is open 24 hours a day and can be reached at 316-962-8701.

Across Kansas

Statewide, the rate of flu-like illness has risen higher and earlier than usual, according to a news release from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The season typically peaks in February.

Across the state, more than 460 influenza and pneumonia deaths have been reported to date, according to the release.

During the last flu season, “influenza and pneumonia, a common complication of influenza, contributed to or directly caused more than 1,300 deaths among Kansas residents, and was the eighth leading underlying cause of death in 2011,” according to the release.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com.

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