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Hospitals over capacity in Birmingham due to flu situation

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Central Alabama hospitals are over normal capacity due to a large number of patients with flu or flu-like illnesses. reports that health officials say the “flu situation” is not a pandemic, but calling it a major seasonal flu issue in Birmingham. The last major flu event in the city was the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak, said Dr. Bernard Camins, healthcare epidemiologist for the UAB Hospital system.

“We’re feeling this is even worse than that last one,” he said, noting this is the worst flu outbreak he’s seen since he started working in health care 13 years ago.

Both hospital and health department officials are still urging residents to get the flu shot, as it could still protect people from certain strain of the flu or make the flu symptoms less severe and shorter if they get the flu.

Birmingham-area hospitals are also being affected by the reported IV bag shortage caused by hurricane damages to Puerto Rico, said Julie Cobb, who oversees emergency preparedness and response for Jefferson County Department of Health.

“They’re urging providers, if they can, to do fluids by mouth, not just automatically doing IV fluids if the patient is able to take fluids by mouth,” she said. “(The IV bag shortage) is a concern at this time as well.”

Jefferson County Department of Health Officer Mark Wilson said people with minor flu or flu-like symptoms should not go to emergency departments or hospitals to avoid over-stressing the medical resources.

“Our area hospitals are seeing an influx of patients that are seriously ill. If a person has a flu-like illness without signs of serious illness, (they) should remain at home,” he said. “Call your doctor first if you are unsure.”

Wilson said most cases of the flu do not require hospitalization.

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