Martha Jefferson Hospital Sees Early Influx of Flu Patients - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Martha Jefferson Hospital Sees Early Influx of Flu Patients

Posted: Updated: Jan 1, 2013 04:20 PM EST

Cold and flu season is here and packing a mean punch.

Emergency rooms have been very busy over the holidays, treating patients with a variety of respiratory illnesses. Martha Jefferson Hospital says cold, flu, strep and even cases of pneumonia have been on the rise these last few weeks.

"I don't necessarily think it's worse this time, it's just we're seeing it a lot sooner," said Nicole Dickinson, a nurse at Martha Jefferson Hospital.

One possible reason for the increase is people not taking care of themselves over the holidays. But the New Year could be the perfect time to make sure your health is in order.

Flu season is proving to be a busy one for staff at Martha Jefferson's Proffit Road emergency department, working around the clock to treat viral and bacterial illnesses.

"I would definitely say we've seen an increase in the number of patients over the last two weeks, especially a lot of out-of-towners who have gotten sick since they've been here," Dickinson said.

Strep, pneumonia and the flu have all made the list for recent trips to the emergency room. Data from the Virginia Department of Health shows during those holiday weeks, flu activity jumped from local to widespread, and did so much earlier than last season.

"I think your immune system is definitely compromised when you're traveling because you're not taking care of yourself as well as you would be if you were at home; eating holiday food, engorging in alcohol," Dickinson said.

Experts say staying hydrated and drinking fluids without caffeine or alcohol is key, and that getting vitamin C is helpful too. And of course, Dickinson says, "For yourself, the best thing you can do is wash your hands."

Come what may this season, staff at Martha Jefferson Hospital is ready.

"We're here for them 24 hours a day and we're happy to see them," Dickinson said.

Health professionals are reminding people who received flu shots to still take precautions. The shot decreases your chances of getting the flu, but it does not mean you're immune.

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