LEHIGH VALLEY HEALTH NETWORK
Large tents have been set up outside the emergency rooms at the Cedar Crest campus of Lehigh Valley Health Network, in Salisbury Township, and at the network’s Muhlenberg Campus, in Bethlehem, to handle the large surge of patients visiting the hospitals with flu-related symptoms.
LVHN spokesman Brian Downs said, “We set up a surge hospital outside the ER at our LVH-Cedar Crest site on Jan. 15 due to high patient volume. The last time we had done that was in January, five years ago. We decided to set up the surge hospital because we were seeing patients with a variety of illnesses including viral illnesses and the flu. The surge tent provides quicker triage of patients when volume is at its highest.
“Primarily we see patients who do not have the flu or more serious issues in the surge hospital, and care for them in the emergency department,” Downs said. “Some more minor flu or other illnesses also can be seen in the surge unit. It also allows us to segregate, not quarantine, patients and provide a safer environment for both patients and our staff, who need to stay healthy to care for those who are sick. Since we set up the surge hospital we have been seeing about 30 to 40 patients a day inside the unit.”
Downs said the health network also experienced a jump in patient volume at the emergency room at LVH-Muhlenberg, in Bethlehem, over the past week, so health officers decided to put up a smaller surge hospital at that site Jan. 16.
“We will continue to operate the surge units as long as the patient volume remains high, as it has during this period of increased illnesses,” Downs said.
According to Luther Rhodes, M.D., chief of hospital epidemiology at LVHN, “The good news is the flu season has likely peaked, although it will be a few weeks before we see it declining. This is far from the worst flu season we’ve had in the Lehigh Valley. I’d call this an average year.”
Even though flu season appears to have peaked, according to the Centers for Disease Control, getting a flu shot remains the best deterrent in case someone comes in contact with the influenza virus.
Other things to keep in mind when trying to avoid the flu:
•Wash your hands often with soap and water
•Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs on your hands can easily spread this way.
•Avoid close contact with sick people.
If you need medical attention, chances are you will find local emergency rooms very crowded.
Officials recommend visiting a patient’s primary care physician or an express care or urgent care facility.