'Tripledemic' leading to long wait times at emergency rooms

"We are seeing about almost a thousand cases a week right now of influenza, which is very abnormal for this point in the season."

Jillian Mele Image
Friday, December 9, 2022
'Tripledemic' leading to long wait times at emergency rooms
EMBED <>More Videos

"We are seeing about almost a thousand cases a week right now of influenza, which is very abnormal for this point in the season," said Dr. Gemma Downham.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- What is being called the "tripledemic" of the flu, Covid-19 and RSV is leading to long wait times at emergency rooms, and some urgent care facilities are not taking online appointments due to high demand. Two doctors are weighing in on what they are seeing.

"We have a very sharp increase of patients with flu," says Gemma Downham, corporate director, patient safety and infection prevention with AtlantiCare.

In fact, AtlantiCare is seeing the highest level of flu at this point in the season in 10 years.

"We are seeing about almost a thousand cases a week right now of influenza, which is very abnormal for this point in the season," said Downham.

In Delaware, Dr. Eva Geracimos, a family medicine physician with ChristianaCare Primary Care in Hockessin, says the flu hit earlier this year. She diagnosed her first patient in September.

"A lot of people don't tend to think about vaccination until about October, so I think that was part of the problem. I've had some patients who typically would have gotten vaccinated, get the flu before they could get their vaccine," said Geracimos.

Based on the latest CDC data available, Pennsylvania and Delaware are at high levels of flu activity, while New Jersey is at very high.

"We also have a strain of flu circulating this season, H3N2, an influenza A, which is more severe for kids, older adults and immune-compromised," said Downham.

Emergency rooms are seeing long wait times.

Eighty percent of hospital beds in Philadelphia are occupied.

In Delaware, about 84% are in use. And In New Jersey, about 74% are full.

Urgent care centers are swamped as well.

"Expect even in some urgent care settings to be waiting two to three hours, especially at high volume times," Downham.

"The first thing you should do is call your primary care doctor. We have same-day sick visits at our office and we have the ability to test for flu, Covid and RSV," added Geracimos.

And both doctors stress the importance of the flu shot. Dr. Downham says it has about a 49% efficacy against the current strain, which she says is above the gold standard for the flu vaccine.