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Area hospitals: 'Huge increase' in patients, staffing due to flu season

Tuesday - 1/8/2013, 5:52pm  ET

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Medstar Montgomery Medical Center in Olney has been treating between 20 and 50 percent more patients each day. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)

ER flooded with flu patients

Dr. Julian Orenstein, emergency physician at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital

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Andrew Mollenbeck, wtop.com

OLNEY, Md. - Area hospitals are calling for back up to handle a surge in patients related to one of the most severe flu seasons in years.

Medstar Montgomery Medical Center in Olney has been treating between 20 percent and 50 percent more patients each day.

Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville has seen about 30 additional patients in the emergency department. At Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, it has been about 20 additional patients daily.

All have had to increase staffing.

"For the past three to four weeks we've been seeing a huge increase in the number of patients showing up to emergency departments with either the flu directly or complications of the flu," says Dr. Michael Kerr, chief of staff at Medstar Montgomery Medical Center.

"We are on a day by day basis calling in extra physicians, extra floor physicians, extra nursing staff, extra technicians to try to deal with all these new patients," he says.

That emergency department can increase physician staff by almost 50 percent, and that has been the routine every day for the past three weeks. Additional physicians have also arrived as volunteers.

For those who have contracted the flu, the typical symptoms last three- to five days.

And while flu shots limit the severity, some patients who received them have also gotten sick.

"This year it turns out that even though the flu vaccine was very good for giving protection, it's just a nasty year for the flu, and we're just seeing a huge surge in patients," Kerr says.

Though the flu season is well underway, Kerr says there is still an advantage to getting a shot.

"If you have not contracted the flu yet, you can get the flu shot, and a young, healthy person will get immunity in several days," he says.

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