The wait times at local hospital emergency rooms are longer than usual because of the number of people showing up with flu symptoms.
ER doctors at the UT Health Science Center at Tyler say there's a major increase in patients with one particular illness.
"Tons of flu, people who are sick their very first day, people who have been sick seven or eight days, people who have been sick long enough now to have secondary bacterial infections, just the gambit," says Dr. Joshua Stringer, an ER doctor at UTHSCT.
Since patients with flu symptoms are flocking to ERs, several local hospitals are on medical divert.
For patients at UTHSCT that divert could mean a longer wait.
"It means that they are going to have longer and longer ER stays and it means that people who don't have emergent symptoms are going to get tired of waiting in the ER waiting room," says Dr. Stringer.
And even if you wait that doesn't mean doctors can treat your flu.
"A lot of people come because they think we are going to fix them and for most people that's not the case," Dr. Stringer says.
If you're seen in the first 48 hours of having flu symptoms, Tamiflu can shorten your illness by about a day, but after that doctors say they can only treat your symptoms.
"A lot of the symptoms are not deathly urgent so a lot of it can be managed symptomatically and that's what we end up doing most of the time anyway," Dr. Stringer says.
If your flu symptoms aren't out of the ordinary, Dr. Stringer says the emergency room should not be your first stop.
"I would definitely advise that people see their primary care physician or an urgent care doctor if their symptoms are not severe."
If you simply don't want the flu, doctors say get a flu shot, wash your hands, and consider wearing a mask in public places.
Still, Dr. Stringer says even if you get a flu shot you can still get the flu. He says it is rare but there are several different strains of the flu and the shot does not protect you against every possible strain.
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