Story by: Kevin Wheatley on November 21, 2022
The number of flu patients who have sought care at Norton Healthcare and Norton Children’s has soared in recent weeks as thousands have caught the seasonal respiratory illness.
“After two relatively mild flu seasons, we are seeing flu cases surge throughout the community,” said Mary E. Rademaker, M.D., medical director of Norton Immediate Care Centers. “If you have not gotten a flu vaccine recently, now is the time to get one.”
Norton Healthcare cared for nearly 2,300 patients with flu during the second week of November, up about 50% from the 1,500 flu patients the week prior.
Most of those flu patients are children. Norton Children’s testing identified 1,600 flu cases during the second week of November, which marks the highest volume of flu patients at Norton Children’s in one week since 1,523 children fell ill with flu during a week in February 2020.
Flu shots are available through Norton Healthcare and Norton Children’s primary care providers, Norton Healthcare Express Services and Norton Prompt Care at Walgreens locations.
“This spike in flu cases so early in flu season causes great concern of what’s to come this winter,” said Heather M. Felton, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Group, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “As illnesses spread in schools and day cares, children are very susceptible to catching the flu and other sickness. Vaccines offer a layer of protection against the common strains of flu virus and can be taken by anyone starting when they’re 6 months old, with rare exceptions.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates between 4.4 million and 9.8 million people have fallen ill with flu from Oct. 1 through Nov. 12, resulting in between 2.1 million and 4.8 million medical visits and between 38,000 and 77,000 hospitalizations.
Norton Children’s Hospital averaged nearly four patients in isolation for flu every day from Nov. 1 through Nov. 14.
Flu illnesses can be deadly, and the CDC estimates between 2,100 and 6,200 people have died from flu complications between Oct. 1 and Nov. 12.
The flu can be especially problematic for those at higher risk of complications during illness, such as adults 65 and older, those with chronic health conditions like heart disease or diabetes, pregnant people, and children younger than 2.
“While the flu tends to be a mild illness for many patients, it can pose serious problems for others,” Dr. Rademaker said. “Vaccines are an important part of flu mitigation, but if you get sick and display severe symptoms of flu, you should see your primary care provider promptly to get diagnosed and started on treatment.”
Flu symptoms include: