FLU-isville! Local health care providers cope with flu surge


by Joe Arnold


Posted on January 9, 2013 at 7:51 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 9 at 11:41 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Louisville area hospitals report no vaccine shortages or other major complications despite some U.S. cities experiencing problems dealing with an influenza outbreak.

"We're swamped with people with the flu," said Angie Zeller, a nurse practitioner at University of Louisville Hospital.  "There is an hour wait to get into 'First Care,' but no, it's flowing fine."

"Unfortunately, our wait times go up," acknowledged Dr. Shawn McCarty, a Baptist East Emergency Department physician.  "People have to wait longer in the Emergency Department, but it just overwhelms all of our resources."

McCarty said the flu strain that began to surge several weeks ago in Louisville is "very aggressive where patients are getting much sicker and we're admitting a lot more patients to the hospital for flu related complications."

Local health care providers confirm the Centers for Disease Control's characterizations of the flu epidemic hitting earlier and stronger than in any time in the last ten years.

"It is the biggest increase we have seen," said Tim Pruitt, the regional clinic director for The Little Clinic locations in the Louisville and Lexington areas.  "We didn't have the predominance of flu and flu like illnesses last year that we're having this year and its the earliest it's been in about the last ten years and it's more severe."

"Some people have a scratchy throat," Zeller explained.  "Some people have a sore throat, some people have nausea.  But, everybody has the chills, the muscle aches and the fever."

Kentucky and Indiana have been reporting widespread cases of influenza for weeks.

A check of several local major employers, such as UPS and Jefferson County Public Schools, did not indicate any major disruptions because of the flu.

Floyd Memorial Hospital reports a 90 percent increase over last year. Norton Healthcare said its emergency departments and clinics are busier than usual, and Baptist East reports about 20 percent more flu cases are being treated each day.

Patients who exhibit flu symptoms are asked to wear a mask over their mouths to protect other patients.

"I think people don't realize how serious of an illness influenza is," McCarty said.  "I tell people every day to get a flu shot but they don't believe me."

In Hardinsburg, Kentucky Brooke Coffman said her family missed their annual flu shots this year and are paying for it, today.

Her son, Ashton, woke up Tuesday morning with a 103 degree fever.

"It's awful," Coffman told WHAS11.  "We had no sleep the night before last.  We were up every hour on the hour vomiting. We have tried to force feed with liquids and tried to.. there's been no food.  He's just been having Gatorade, and no sleep."

As Steve Lauyan and his two preschool age sons all recover from the flu, his wife and two month old daughter left their home until the danger passes.

"I was in the hospital on Sunday and ended up being dehydrated and needing two liters of fluid to rehydrate and let the flu run its course from there," Lauyan told WHAS11.  "It is a very quick hit and it is a very bad feeling for all involved for about a week."

"You're just totally drained of all energy. You're running a really high fever.  For the boys they were at 101, 102.  I myself was at 103 almost.  It is a very rough experience."

Health care experts advise flu sufferers to stay away from others, cough into your arm, wash your hands and even if you've already had the flu, get a flu shot.

Though the vaccine doesn't always prevent it, the shot can help keep the flu in check.

"It's never too late to take a flu shot," Pruitt said.  "We don't really know how long the flu season is going to last.  It started early, it could last all the way through March.  It's never too late to get a flu shot."