Flu outbreak among calls keeping local EMS busy

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – The deadly and fast growing flu epidemic is not only keeping pharmacies and hospitals tied up. Local paramedics are also working hard to get folks with the flu rushed to the emergency room.

Flu cases in Wisconsin have already reached more than 4,000. That's more than double last year according to the state health department.

Eau Claire Fire and Rescue workers say they're also seeing an increase in the number of calls so far this in 2013, several of those cases flu-related.

“Anytime you have emergency symptoms like chest pain, trouble breathing, if you're unable to standup and walk, if you're fainting, that’s when you should call EMS,” said Tony Hennings, a firefighter paramedic.

There have been 55 more calls this year compared to last year at this time.

“We had like 311 patients with flu type symptoms throughout 2012, so this year, we’re just into it less than a month here and our call volume is up all together,” said Captain Tim Deziel.

Hennings said he already responded to a flu-related call earlier in the day Monday.

Deziel added, among the people who are calling about flu symptoms, it's mostly the elderly and mothers with sick children.

“Especially new mothers when dealing with kids and they've never seen things like this before, they do get excited, but that’s okay, we're there. We'd better be safe than sorry,” said Deziel.

Although the department didn't have exact number of flu responses for January, dozens of flu-related hospitalizations were reported from both Mayo Clinic Health System and Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire.

“I know over the last few months, both hospitals have been on divert where we had to divert to the other hospital in town,” said Hennings.

So at what point do you call the EMS for a bad case of the flu?

“A point where they go dehydrated, they're too weak, they're fainting, they're passing out and they can't ambulate anymore to a vehicle so that’s when they call an EMS,” said Deziel.

And paramedics say prevention is key.

Masks are used on patients to keep the flu from spreading to paramedics and to other patients who get in the ambulance.

You’ll also find disinfecting wipes and sprays used inside to make sure no one else catches the bug.

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