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St. Mary's Guidelines for Seeking Medical Attention for Flu Patients

St. Mary's

The flu is hitting Georgia hard, and hospitals across the state are seeing unusually high numbers of emergency department visits. Like other hospitals in the state, St. Mary's Health Care System has seen a dramatic increase in patients coming to the emergency department with flu-like symptoms over the last few weeks.

This unusually high volume means patients with uncomplicated flu symptoms can expect long wait times. St. Mary's is joining other Georgia hospitals in urging patients with symptoms of the flu to consider whether they truly need emergency care. If emergency care is not needed, patients are advised to seek care from their primary care provider or an urgent care clinic instead of the emergency department. For most patients, flu can be managed with rest, fluids and over-the-counter medications.

Some patients are at increased risk of serious complications from the flu and should seek care immediately if symptoms arise. People at higher risk include elderly adults, very young children, people with chronic respiratory conditions such as COPD or asthma, and people with weakened immune systems such as patients undergoing chemotherapy or living with HIV.

Symptoms that warrant emergency care include high fever that does not respond to over-the-counter medications; dizziness, confusion, or other altered mental status; and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Persistent vomiting or diarrhea, while not common with the flu, can also create a medical emergency.

Here are tips to avoid catching and spreading the flu:

· Wash or sanitize your hands often.

· Get a flu shot (it still offers strong protection against two strains of influenza and partial protection against the third).

· Cover your coughs and sneezes.

· When possible, avoid crowds.

· If symptoms arise, stay home to protect others. Call your doctor and go out only if you need medical care.

· If you are sick, do not visit people in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities or assisted living facilities.

For more information about the flu, visit www.cdc.gov/flu or talk to your primary care physician.

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