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Corridor begins to see spike in Flu cases

A Mercy Hospital Iowa City On Call nurse answers questions from patients. The 24-7 service has seen a spike in calls about flu symptoms during the last two weeks

IOWA CITY, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) - Mercy Hospital in Iowa City has had registered nurses available to answer questions over the phone for nearly 20 years, but this is the first flu season they are on the job 24-7 and it comes just in the nick of time. Iowa is now surrounded on all sides by states rated as having widespread cases of flu. While Iowa is still in the moderate category, the non-stop inquiries to Mercy On Call would seem to indicate the corridor is catching up fast.

ECU Medical Director Dr. Stephen Scheckel, says they’ve seen a definite spike with five to seven patients coming to the emergency room every day complaining about flu-like symptoms. He says at least 25% of the calls coming into nurses are also asking for advice on influenza. For those patients who are sick or caring for a loved one in the middle of the night, he says being able to make a phone call makes all the difference, “ It helps answer some simple questions that people are unsure how to answer themselves and it helps direct them on whether they can wait until a regular office visit or whether in fact it’s an emergency and the patients should really come to the hospital or sometimes call an ambulance.”

Dr. Scheckel adds that there has been a great deal of confusion over the effectiveness of the flu shot being offered this year. He says while it may not provide total coverage, it will still lessen the severity of the symptoms if someone contracts the flu virus. He says that means less coughing and less risk of spreading the illness to family and coworkers. As more cases are reported in Iowa it raises concerns that flu could spread rapidly in the next few weeks. That’s when students of all ages will begin to return to schools and college campuses and some will likely be carrying the flu virus with them. For more information on the Iowa City Mercy On Call phone lines click here.

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