With the flu widespread here in Connecticut, hospitals and their emergency rooms across the state are being stretched thin, with an increase in patients leading to longer wait times.
The chairman of emergency medicine here at Middlesex Hospital told Eyewitness News that he's been in medicine for 27 years, and when it comes to the flu, he's never seen it this severe.
"We're seeing about a 25-30 percent increase in visits to the emergency department," said Dr. Michael Saxe, who heads up emergency medicine at Middlesex Hospital. "In addition, patients are a lot sicker than normal."
More patients filling the ER are leading to longer wait times for patients. Saxe said they've brought in extra nurses and doctors trying to keep up with the surge.
The hospital has a website, which let patients keep tabs on how long they just might wait. Typically, the wait is around 30 minutes, but since Christmas it has gone up.
"Usually we're pretty successful in doing that," Saxe said. "These days, we're shooting for under an hour on the busy days."
The hospital is also requiring all visitors to wear masks.
At Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, signs in their ER remind patients to cover their coughs. Saint Francis Hospital has also seen an increase number of patients coming to the ER for flu.
"What we try to do is get everyone in as quickly as possible. We certainly don't want people to wait for hours," said Dr. Steven Wolf of Saint Francis Hospital. "We've had a huge amount of patients requiring admission."
Requiring admission is helping clog up the ERs in Connecticut and across the country. However, sometimes the volume of patients overwhelms the resources at the hospital.
"We've had staff members who have gotten sick as well. We have to back fill, and that's what hospitals are struggling with," Wolf said. "Staff gets sick, too, and we still have to increase capacity on top of that. So it's been a struggle for everybody."
Doctors are advising Connecticut residents to get a flu shot, which will help them avoid waiting in long lines at the hospital.
But, doctors said there are other steps you can take to avoid the long lines, such as washing your hands frequently and avoiding contact with anyone that's sick.
And if someone gets sick, they are being told to sleep and drink a lot of fluids.
Both Wolf and Saxe said if you haven't gotten a flu shot yet, you still can and you should. As for this rush of flu cases, they expect it to last probably another few months.
The governor's office said the state has seen a sharp increase in flu activity in Connecticut and advised residents to get vaccinated.
According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, there are 1,680 reported cases of influenza. The following is the breakdown by Connecticut counties:
The Connecticut Department of Public Health said the reported number of cases is higher than the previous two flu seasons.
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