Flu season hits hard in New York
Web posted at: 4:33 a.m. EST (0933 GMT)
(CNN) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports only scattered outbreaks of flu throughout the United States, but cites New York City as a place where the flu has really taken hold.
City hospitals and doctors offices are doing all they can to keep up with the epidemic.
"They've brought in extra doctors to handle the overload," said Dr. Peter Shearer of Elmhurst Hospital. "And even with that, you still end up with patients who can wait in the emergency room for 24 hours waiting for a bed."
While officials haven't been able to pin down the total number of flu cases this winter, hospital staffs in New York say this past January has been one of the worst months in years.
Physicians say they believe New Yorkers have been hardest hit because of their close proximity to one another.
"If one person in their family gets the flu and they live in an apartment with five other people, it's going to spread a lot faster," Shearer said.
But why are so many heading to the emergency room, even with cases of the flu that aren't serious?
"We think that a lot of people are uninsured that are going to the emergency rooms so therefore, they don't have a personal physician," said Kenneth Raske of the Greater New York Hospital Association.
"In addition to that, it appears to us that a lot of these managed care companies are the primary care physicians just aren't available at the times they need so therefore the ER is the natural place to go."
Private physicians say they are also seeing their share of patients.
"I think we're getting into a cycle where one infection leads to another one," said pediatrician Marlene West. "No one is getting completely well."
Doctors speculate that the flu season has yet to peak and that hospitals will continue to treat large numbers of flu patients for at least another month.
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