By LIBBY CLUETT
The Palo Pinto General Hospital Emergency Room was quite busy in December; in fact, according to ER Medical Director and hospital Chief of Staff Dr. John Jones, the ER experienced its busiest month, treating an all-time high of over 2,000 patients in a single month.
“We're coming off our busiest year ever,” Jones said, adding that shortly after Christmas the department saw it's historical daily high of 99 patients.
“December is the busiest we've ever seen. We had several days with over 80 and 90 [patients] in December,” said Jones. He said on average the ER treats 60-65 patients in a typical day.
PPGH ER has seen a lot of respiratory-related illness, including bronchitis, gastrointestinal-related illness and a lot of flu, he said.
While flu cases are not necessarily worse than previous years, Jones said, “The number of flu cases are up [this season compared to] past years.” He noted that it seems the flu is occurring earlier than usual.
“We reported over 100 cases of flu-like illness to the [Texas Department of State Health Service] for last week,” said Sue Lamb, PPGH clinic administrator and assistant chief nursing officer.
Lamb said the hospital has also treated several cases of pneumonia.
Dealing with seasonal flu “The flu shot is the greatest prevention,” Jones said, adding, “It's not too late to get a flu vaccination.”
He explained that none of those treated in the ER for the flu “had received the vaccine, to my knowledge, and no one who has received the vaccine has tested positive for the flu.”
The flu typically lasts five to seven days, Jones said and advises anyone with an illness that lingers beyond that to see a physician.
Additionally, he noted that the flu often comes with a high fever, reaching 102-103 degrees Fahrenheit.
“If the fever stays up and doesn't respond to Tylenol or Motrin, or gets higher and [the patient experiences] worsening symptoms – cough and dehydration – they certainly want to have those evaluated by a physician,” he said.
Jones suggests ways to avoid getting the flu and other illnesses are to:
• Stay out of large environments during the winter months.
• Practice good hand-washing and good personal hygiene.
• If you are sick, you want to cover your cough.
“Flu is sensitive to temperatures,” Jones said. “Cooler and damp weather puts you at risk.”
The message is “don't wait,” he said, and, if sick, “Attempt to get in with your primary physician. iIf that's not available, we're here to see you and happy to do so.”