While most of us rang in the New Year with good cheer, other not-so-lucky Calgarians started off 2013 with visits to their doctor’s office, walk-in clinics and hospital emergency departments, seeking respite from what’s been described by its victims as one of the nastier influenza strains to hit in years.
A widespread outbreak in this city, combined with a surge in Norovirus cases, has packed Calgary hospitals to the point where nearly a dozen surgeries so far have had to be cancelled to cope with the deluge.
While Calgary has more than 300 confirmed cases of influenza, hospitals in some areas of the province are reporting a quadrupling of those with flu symptoms coming to their emergency departments.
Such chaos is also occurring south of the border, with hospitals across the United States reporting an earlier and bigger-than-usual surge in patients complaining of flu-like symptoms. One hospital in Pennsylvania was so overcapacity that it set up a tent outside its emergency department to tend to patients.
On Wednesday, the city of Boston declared a public health emergency due to an influx of patients. On Tuesday, the situation here came to a boiling point when precautions by 23 long-term care facilities in the city meant seniors who had been treated for the highly contagious Norovirus couldn’t immediately return to their homes. Hospital hallways have been pressed into service to provide places for them to sleep.
The crisis has led Alberta Health Services officials to remind Calgarians the flu is a virus that in all but the more severe cases is best treated at home. They’re urging those worried about their symptoms to seek out their family doctor, walk-in clinic or urgent care centre so as not to overburden hospitals.