Hospitals, doctors see rise in flu cases

Published 6:35 pm Wednesday, January 17, 2018


NATCHEZ — As influenza sweeps across areas of Mississippi, Natchez healthcare centers are filling up with flu patients.

“Like other hospitals in our state, we are experiencing an increase in emergency room visits among people with flu-like symptoms,” Merit Health Natchez Chief Nursing Officer Lee Hinson said.

Email newsletter signup

For those wondering if they should be one of these people visiting a health clinic, these symptoms might include difficulty breathing, chest pains and sudden dizziness.

And the hospital is not the only institute dealing with an increased patient load — Internist Dr. Kenneth Stubbs said the Natchez After Hours Clinic and Natchez Urgent Care have at times had to increase the amount of on-duty staff members to handle the influx.

“It’s 15 to 20 people we’re (testing for the flu) a day at the after hours clinic,” Stubbs said.

That same figure applies for the urgent care, Stubbs said.

Of that group, approximately half has been testing positive for the flu. Those patients are in addition to others visiting the clinic who are experiencing symptoms that were not severe enough to warrant testing, as well as all others suffering from some type of malady. In total, Stubbs said the after hours clinic is seeing approximately 45 to 50 people a day, while the urgent care has seen upwards of 35 patients a day.

Stubbs said the clinic has been able to adequately handle the uptick in patients, though increased wait times are common during rampant influenza.

“When you’re testing several people at a time (and) you’ve got to wait 20 minutes for each test, if you’re the third one in line, it may take an hour to get your results,” Stubbs said.

The prevalence of the flu even forced Monterey High School to cancel classes last Friday, when one in every five students reportedly contracted the flu or experienced flu-like symptoms.

But although the flu already has a foothold, health professionals still urge everyone above 6 months in age to get vaccinated.

“It is not too late to get a flu shot,” Hinson said.” Anyone who has not yet been vaccinated this season should get an influenza vaccine now.”

Stubbs said the CDC has estimated that the current vaccine has had about a 32-percent effectiveness rate this flu season and agreed that a flu shot is worth receiving.

It seems that the strain that (people) are picking up mostly in the state is in the flu vaccine, so it is worth getting,” Stubbs said. “And I strongly encourage everybody to get your flu shot, because it’s still the best potential shot at protection we have.”

Stubbs said those who are experience overt flu symptoms get treatment right away, as well as those who experience some symptoms but are frail, elderly or suffer from a chronic disease. Otherwise, if you are unsure about the symptoms you are experiencing, Stubbs said getting tested for the flu would be “a reasonable option.”

Merit Health Natchez also said the CDC recommends seeking assistance from the closest emergency healthcare department if infants or young children experience any of these symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing
  • No tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
  • Bluish skin tone
  • Extreme irritability
  • Aforementioned symptoms improve, but return accompanied by a fever and cough
  • Fever with a rash

The hospital recommends the same for adults who experience the following:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pains
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Aforementioned symptoms improve, but return accompanied by a fever and cough.

Editorial note: The above story was edited to clarify the average amount of patients local Natchez clinics have seen per day.