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Some Milwaukee-area hospitals turn away flu patients

Sample of Flu Vaccine sits on counter.
Sample of Flu Vaccine sits on counter.

MILWAUKEE (WSAU)  Health officials say Milwaukee is the only place in Wisconsin where hospitals have so many flu cases, they’re telling ambulance drivers to send their patients elsewhere. Milwaukee disease control director Paul Biedrzycki says up to eight of his county’s 11 hospitals have had to divert ambulances to other facilities.

The county’s largest hospital, Froedtert, says 15-to-20 patients a day have gone to its emergency room with flu-like symptoms – and other illnesses are also on the rise. Biedrzycki said the spike might have been caused by holiday gatherings where elderly people were exposed to the most prevalent flu virus in at least a decade. Other places are having the same problem. Eleven hospitals in Illinois are only accepting new patients who have life-threatening conditions. And Boston’s mayor has declared a public health emergency, after having 10 times as many flu cases as a year ago.

Biedrzycki says he knows of no flu-related deaths in Milwaukee – but there could have been some, because autopsies are generally not performed on those who die from natural causes. He says flu shots and Tamiflu are still available, and people should get vaccinated.