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VA Hospitals See Increased Flu Cases - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

VA Hospitals See Increased Flu Cases

Posted: Updated: Jan 10, 2013 05:25 PM EST

Thousands across the country are sick right now with the flu, and hospitals are inundated with patients.

Augusta Health alone has treated more than 500 cases of the flu this season—that's five times the typical amount. The University of Virginia Medical Center and Martha Jefferson Hospital are also working around the clock to deal with the influx.

"I've been in infection control 26 years and I've never seen it this busy. It ranks up there with the busiest I've ever seen a flu season," said Carolyn Palmer, infection prevention control coordinator for Augusta Health.

Currently, Augusta Health is full of patients, many suffering with this highly contagious problem. To make matters more complicated, there is a nationwide shortage of rapid flu testing kits and Augusta Health is being directly affected.

Because of the shortage they are only using the rapid testing on flu patients that are in the emergency room or are being admitted.

"If it looks like the flu and sounds like the flu, we're going to treat them for the flu," Palmer said.

Visitors at Martha Jefferson Hospital are being asked to wear masks, and some visitors are being asked not to visit at all.

"For folks who have loved ones in the hospital, if they do have the flu, or think that they might, it might actually be best for them to just stay home until they're feeling better," said Keri Hall, an infectious disease specialist at Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Martha Jefferson is almost completely full. An additional unit has been opened at the hospital to offer 7 extra beds for flu patients. And at the University of Virginia Medical Center, things have been exceptionally busy. The same goes for Culpeper Regional and Rockingham Memorial hospitals.

Hall says the flu strain people are infected with is the same one the flu shot protects you from. She says it's not too late to get the shot.

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