Emergency room visits for flu-like illness are up significantly over a year ago, according to new numbers from the Miami-Dade County Health Department.
The department, which tracks the 17 largest ERs in the county, said that for the week ending Dec. 30 nearly 6 percent of the emergency visits were for flu-like illness. That is more than double the rate for the same time a year ago.
Patient Kevin Ortiz, 19, said he has “been feeling really sick,” like he never has before.
“I've been feeling my whole body, my whole body's been very – been shut down,” he said. “I have a headache. I've been having chest pains. I've been feeling totally without strength.”
At Memorial Healthcare System's Urgent Care Center, they have been seeing a significant increase in patients like Ortiz with flu-like illness.
“It's definitely picked up in the past several weeks. Cases have probably doubled or tripled just in the past week alone,” said Dr. Cory Spurlock, who works in critical care.
Flu activity levels are high in 29 states, including Florida, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People with the influenza virus can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away, through droplets when they cough and sneeze. Two good ways to prevent the flu are to keep your hands clean and away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
Spurlock said it can be hard to distinguish between a bad cold and the flu.
“It's tough to differentiate. The symptoms are very common,” he said. “This strand of flu tends to be a little more severe, with the higher fever, more body aches, headaches and chills.”
It is not too late to get a flu shot – though it does take a couple of weeks to get full protection from the vaccine. Nurse Yvette Dixon got hers Tuesday.
“It's not just for myself but it's also for the safety of other patients, because I'm exposed to a lot of patients throughout my shift,” she said.