Holiday illnesses fill urgent care clinics, ERs

December 27, 2012

If you are sick this week, you are not alone. Some of it has to do with it being flu season, but it also has to do with the holidays.

You get a lot of people together and it becomes easier to spread germs, and that's what we're seeing this week.

The sounds and sights of this holiday season at CareSTAT in Havertown may not be the typical carol or jingle of bells.

Healthcare officials say the boom started at the end of last week.

"70 folks came in on Saturday, and that was double the number we saw Friday. It has been crazy," said Jaime Gusdorff.

And clinic co-owner Jaime Gusdorff says it has been non-stop from opening to closing ever since.

"We have movies on, free Wi-Fi, taking cell phone numbers, anything to keep people who aren't feeling well comfortable," she said.

Most illnesses they are seeing fall into two categories - stomach and respiratory viruses.

"We are seeing a lot of people with abdominal pain - and vomiting, and we're also seeing the people with classic flu symptoms - nasal congestion, fever, body aches," said Dr. Todd Vladyka.

The clinic had one boy sick enough with the flu to be hospitalized.

Hospital emergency rooms have also been filled in the past week or so; some seeing more flu-like illnesses, others seeing more stomach viruses.

Among children, there has been a high rate of RSV - respiratory syncytial virus.

It hits those under the age of two the hardest, especially preemies, and children with asthma.

Doctors at CareSTAT expect packed waiting rooms throughout the weekend and into the New Year.

But you can lower your chances for picking up what's going around.

"Good hand washing and good infection control around other people who are known to be sick, getting the vaccination," said Dr. Vladyka. "We do vaccinate patients throughout the season."

One of the best prevention tools is the flu shot, and it's not too late to get one.

It takes about two weeks to take full effect, but flu season sometimes lasts into March or April.

Flu shots are recommended especially for kids, pregnant women, the elderly and anyone with chronic medical problems.

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