Flu outbreak puts Chicago-area hospitals on bypass

January 8, 2013 4:20:31 PM PST
Emergency rooms at Chicago-area hospitals are so packed with flu patients, ambulances carrying patients are being diverted to other hospitals.

Six area hospitals were on bypass early Tuesday evening. That means the affected hospitals are asking ambulances to take patients elsewhere, if they can do so safely.

The flu outbreak has already claimed the lives on six people in Illinois and seven in Indiana.

Flu season is packing a wallop in the Chicago area, causing some emergency rooms to be overflowing with patients.

Tuesday morning, a few hospitals were still on bypass, telling ambulances to take patients elsewhere.

Northwestern Memorial was one of those hospitals. Doctors say bypass is rare but not unheard of.

"Northwestern Memorial Hospital is an extraordinarily busy hospital, and oftentimes during our busier months, in the summer, we will sometimes have to go on bypass," said Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Dr. David Zich. "We don't like it, the community doesn't like it, but sometimes it is necessary."

Public health officials say prevention is the key to not getting the flu, and flu shots are highly recommended. They say it's not too late to get one.

"Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone six months of age and older," said the Cook County Department of Public health's Sandra Martell. "There is plenty of flu vaccine in the population. The flu vaccine is also a good match for the circulating virus that we are seeing that is causing the illness."

Some pharmacies say are seeing an influx of people who have come down with the flu and are looking for treatment. They say there is plenty of Tamiflu to go around, but that it is most effective within the first 48 hours of coming down with symptoms.

"We have kept an ample supply of Tamiflu and antibiotics in stock," said Aaron's Apothecary's Aaron Pietrykowski. "We haven't had a supply issue so far. Hopefully, the season will peak soon and we won't have a problem."

Flu shots will be administered through the duration of flu season, which lasts until the end of March.

Other ways to prevent the spread of flu: Clean your hands, Cover your cough, and contain germs if you're sick by staying at home.