There's been no ebb and flow of activity in Fletcher Allen Health Care's emergency room in weeks. The flu is keeping these health care workers hustling, with no break in sight. Officials at Vermont's largest hospital say they are still at full capacity several weeks since the flu took the state by storm.
"I think this is a very unusual year and this is a very severe year compared to the past two years and even, my sense so far, is it's worse than a pandemic year," said Dr. Christopher Grace, an infectious disease specialist.
That's because of the number of patients, the severity of illness and the number of occupied beds at the hospital. Grace says the situation is much worse than in years past. Fletcher Allen has seen hundreds of suspected flu cases so far, but only tests those admitted and those most vulnerable to complications. Two weeks ago the number of lab confirmed cases stood at 80. Today, it's over 200.
Reporter Bridget Barry Caswell: Has it peaked yet?
Dr. Christopher Grace: I think if you asked me that three days ago I would've optimistically said yes, but you know over the past couple of days we've had eight admissions to the hospital and the percent of positive tests are still running about 20 to 40 percent, so I don't think it has peaked.
And with Vermont doctors also reporting no decrease in their patient visits for flu-like illness, Grace worries that won't happen soon.
"I do not think it's going to end anytime soon. You know, any epidemic follows a standard bell curve where there's an increase, a plateau and then it's going to decrease. I have not seen any change in that plateau or any indication that it is decreasing, so I expect that this is going to go on for another four to six weeks," Grace said.
And since the flu can stick around until April, Grace says it's not too late to get a flu shot. The vaccine is not 100 percent effective, but he says some protection is better than none.
The three people who have died from the flu in Vermont all had serious underlying medical conditions.
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