Flu spreading to nurses, doctors in Indiana emergency rooms

JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. -- As cases of the flu continue to increase across central Indiana, one local hospital is even seeing doctors and nurses with the flu and others are working overtime.

The flu is still widespread in Indiana. The state department of health reports there have been 79 influenza-related deaths this season.

Dr. Jeff Qualls, an emergency room physician at Johnson Memorial Hospital said this seasons flu epidemic tops the list from some of the worst he's seen in the last 20 years. He said over the last three weeks, cases of the flu have been particularly intense. At Johnson Memorial Health, they see about 10 patients each day for flu symptoms.

"The first thing we want to do is try to contain the spread of infection, so we put a mask on them and they're set in a separate area," Dr. Qualls said.

Now, the flu is spreading from patients to hospital staff. Dr. Qualls said about 10 percent of nurses and doctors have had the flu or flu-like illnesses. The spread of the contagious bug is causing the healthy doctors and nurses to work overtime.

"The rest of us just kind of pick it up and try to work a little harder," Dr. Qualls said. He added, "when you're sick with influenza, you need to be off work for five to seven days to help avoid spreading the infection. That also means stay at home."

Because there are multiple strains of the flu going around, the chances of catching it are a lot higher. At Johnson Memorial Health, the rooms are full, mostly due to complications from the flu. If you feel minor symptoms, you should see your doctor, before going straight to the emergency room.

"Most primary care providers are easily more than capable of diagnosing influenza in their office and they can give you treatment there. You don't have to go to the emergency room," Dr. Qualls said.

Common signs and symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever of 100° Fahrenheit or greater
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose

The virus ramps up in the winter months because it can survive longer in colder air and because people gather together indoors more often.

Health officials say Hoosiers should practice the “Three Cs” to help prevent the spread of flu and other infectious diseases:

  • Clean: Properly wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water.
  • Cover: Cover your cough and sneeze into your arm or a disposable tissue.
  • Contain: Stay home from school or work when you are sick to keep your germs from spreading.