Hitting Early, Hitting Hard

Man_FluThe numbers are staggering. The flu outbreak in our state this season isn’t double the usual numbers, or even triple…..the most recent update from the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) shows that Arizona’s flu cases are 888 percent higher than our typical flu season! The infographic below is from the ADHS website.


The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AzHHA) is teaming up with our partners from across the state in the fight against the flu. One of our key areas of focus has been to help gather information on the challenges hospitals are facing during this outbreak. And one of the biggest challenges…..is helping Arizonans understand when it is appropriate to go to the emergency room versus when someone should visit their primary care physician.

AzHHA President & CEO Greg Vigdor says it is also important to understand that with so many people seeking care, health care workers are facing a difficult challenge.

“We understand that people may feel frustrated when they are sick, but we are asking Arizonans to be patient with health care workers, particularly in emergency rooms. They are working as quickly as they can while still delivering world class care during this flu outbreak.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a flu guidance page on its website to help you determine whether you should head to the emergency room or your doctor. In short, the emergency room should only be used by those who are very sick and are exhibiting emergency warning signs.

In children

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:

  • Being unable to eat
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Has no tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

In adults

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

One of our member hospitals, Summit Healthcare, pointed out that some people are at much higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu than others. They include:

  • pregnant women
  • women who have given birth in the past two weeks
  • children, especially those under 2 years old
  • adults over 65
  • people whose body mass index is over 40
  • people with diabetes
  • anyone with a medical condition that compromises his or her immune system

Bottom line – with the flu so rampant in our state right now, some hospital emergency rooms are being inundated with people who are sick and looking for help. While we would never tell people NOT to go to the emergency room, we are looking to spread the word that if you are only mildly ill you should contact your health care provider before making a trip to the ER.

As ABC15 in Phoenix mentioned in an online story, it’s also important to remember good habits that can help prevent the spread of the flu virus.

  • Avoiding close contact with people when you are sick
  • Stay home when you’re sick to prevent spreading the viral infection to others
  • Cover your nose and mouth with coughing or sneezing
  • Wash your hands often
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth 
  • Clean and disinfect areas frequently, especially if someone you know is ill

If you haven’t already, AzHHA urges you to get a flu shot. The CDC says news reports that this year’s vaccine is only 10 percent effective is tied to interim estimates of the effectiveness on only one strain of the virus in Australia. Public health officials tracking the virus in the U.S. believe the vaccine’s effectiveness will be similar to last year.

Working with our partners to help fight the health battles facing the people of our state is just one more way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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