East Idaho hospitals slammed with flu patients

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BLACKFOOT — Emergency rooms at Bingham Memorial Hospital and Portneuf Medical Center have been at capacity at times this week as many patients have been admitted for the flu or flu like symptoms.

“Bingham Memorial Hospital emergency room had a two hour wait Wednesday night to be seen,” said Keith Delgado, who took a friend to the hospital.

A spokesman for Portneuf Medical Center confirmed the hospital “has definitely been busy” and some patients with the virus, who needed to be admitted, were sent from Portneuf and Bingham to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls.

“This has been an unusually difficult flu season,” EIRMC spokeswoman Jessica Clements said.

Maryann Smout, Infection Prevention Nurse for Bingham, said that the hospital began to see flu cases rise right after the holidays.

“Last week, more than half of the people in the ER were flu related,” Smout said. “We are seeing a lot more than in past years.”

Jeff Doerr, epidemiologist for Southeastern Idaho Public Health, warned that the flu is very contagious and anyone who has the flu or has been exposed should stay home.

“People can spread the virus before they show any symptoms,” Doerr said. “Good hand hygiene is the best prevention. Wash your hands often.”

Doerr also suggested that people see a doctor as close to the onset of the flu as possible to receive treatment.

“Tamaflu can shorten the duration of the flu if taken as soon as possible,” Doerr said.

Doerr stresses that getting the flu vaccination is important, even though it may only be 30 percent effective because the flu virus if often changing.

“The vaccination will provide some resistance to the virus,” Doerr said. “Some resistance is still better than none.”

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