MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama's hospitals are being inundated by flu cases, officials warn, prompting Gov. Kay Ivey to declare that a 'State Public Health Emergency' now exists.
Ivey's emergency declaration includes a directive to the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency to seek federal assistance as needed. It also allows health care facilities that have invoked their emergency operation plans to implement their "alternative standard of care" plans to combat the outbreak. A copy of her full proclamation is included below.
Thursday, Baptist Health System issued a flu alert advisory, warning the community that area hospitals are seeing a "significant surge in flu and other respiratory illness patients" and that emergency departments "have reached maximum capacity."
Merrill South, the public relations manager for Baptist Health in Montgomery, said wait times have increased for non-emergency care and urged those with flu-like symptoms without signs of serious illness to first see their medical doctor or an urgent care facility before coming to an emergency room.
Baptist is asking people who have flu-like symptoms not to visit patients at the hospitals, while officials at Montgomery's Jackson Hospital are implementing a ban on sick visitors.
In the Birmingham area, WBRC reports UAB Hospital has decided to reschedule non-urgent elective surgeries that require hospitalization in order to alleviate some overcrowding. Urgent and same-day surgeries are ongoing.
The Alabama Department of Public Health's weekly Influenza Surveillance Map shows much of the state reporting the fourth week of widespread flu and the illness is "increasing".
Alabama isn't alone. The 2018 flu season is expected to be one of the worst in years with widespread cases reported in 46 states. Making matters worse, some pharmacies are dealing with temporary shortages of flu medications, due to demand.
Normal Flu Symptoms
Muscle or body aches
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
Seek Immediate Medical Attention For the Following Emergency Warning Signs of Flu Sickness
In children and elderly
• Fast breathing or trouble breathing
• Bluish skin color
• Not drinking enough fluids
• Not waking up or not interacting
• (In children) Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
• (In children) Fever with a rash
• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
• Sudden dizziness
• Severe or persistent vomiting
• Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:
• Being unable to eat
• Has trouble breathing
• Has no tears when crying
• Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal