Due to the large number of patients with flu-like symptoms, a Bensalem urgent care center has begun to implement protocols for a potential flu epidemic.
AllMed Comprehensive Care Center, which is the only urgent care center in the Lower Bucks County area, had 30 cases of the flu or flu-like symptoms over the first weekend in January, the center's administrator said. Therefore, the center has instituted flu protocols in case a flu epidemic is declared.
"We are experiencing a very high volume of flu patients in comparison to prior years as has the local hospitals," Administrator Robert Baca said. "Since we're the only urgent care center in Lower Bucks, we get a lot of the cases, especially on weekends and evenings. Because of the high volume we are seeing, we are already instituting protocols."
AllMed is putting patients who report flu-like symptoms in a separate waiting room, according to Baca. Additionally, patients, people accompanying those patients and staff who come into contact with flu symptoms have been asked to wear masks over their mouths.
Though AllMed is taking the precautions, "this year is very similar to every year," according to the Bureau Director of the Personal Health Division of Bucks County's Department of Health.
Susan Ward, the director, explained that an epidemic is “declared” when disease is widespread, and that "each year we have 'epidemic flu.' "
"That is not to say that we are not concerned with the recent increase in cases; however it is equally important to educate our community members and alleviate any miscommunication or fears that is out there," she said.
Ward said that the department monitors all Bucks County hospitals and investigates all influenza cases.
"We will continue to work closely with our colleagues to assure the best outcome for this season," she said.
Furthermore, Ward said people can review a question and answer sheet to learn more about Pennsylvania's
flu activity status.
Thought Ward said that this year is no different than previous years, if you have yet to get a flu shot, it's not too late to get one.
"More people, now, are getting flu shots than ever before," he said. "We are seeing a spike in cases way beyond anything we've seen in 10 years."
In addition to getting the flu shot, Baca suggests people try and recognize symptoms early, wash hands constantly and have limited contact with people who have the flu. And if a family member or someone you are around often has the flu, "wear those face masks if you have them," he said, to limit the spreading of the germs.
Some people are superstitious of the flu shot thinking it actually causes the flu, but Baca dismisses this misconception.
"There's never been any proof that the flu shot gives people the flu," he said. "Definitely get a flu shot."