US doctors feel pinch of early flu season, push for vaccinations
By late morning, 36 patients, most with flu symptoms, were waiting.
Across town, doctors at Rush University Medical Center have seen 203 flu patients since Nov. 5, compared with 119 patients for the entire flu season last year.
"We are coming to the point where we are running out of testing supplies," said Dr. Ed Ward, an expert in emergency and internal medicine at Rush, a teaching hospital.
Similar scenes are being played out in emergency departments across the country as the United States grapples with the earliest flu season in a decade.
"The emergency rooms are quite full and it's clear that the annual flu epidemic is in full swing," said Dr. Brian Currie, medical director for research at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the proportion of people visiting their doctor for a flu-like illness has climbed from 2.8 percent to 5.6 percent in the last four weeks. That compares with 2.2 percent during last year's mild flu season and a peak of 7.7 percent during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic.
Dr. Daniel Lucey, who tracks global flu activity at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, said people naturally reflect on the past year's flu season as a measure for the severity of flu, making this season appear all the worse by comparison.
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