Montgomery County hospitals are seeing an increase in patients with flu-like symptoms as the number of influenza cases across the state and the country rises and health officials gear up for a flu season that could be the one of the worst in a decade.
The flu is spreading earlier and faster than usual in the Washington, DC, region this year, The Washington Post reported, and Maryland is experiencing widespread cases.
In Maryland so far this season, 2,362 have tested positive for the flu, according to The Baltimore Sun. But since many patients are treated for flu-like symptoms without being tested, the number is likely much higher, said Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services.
The strain infecting people this year tends to be associated with more severe symptoms, The Baltimore Sun reported.
At Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, 23 patients have been hospitalized with the flu, and all but two of them were admitted after Dec. 15, according to hospital spokeswoman Ronna Borenstein-Levy. Some 143 had been hospitalized with the illness as of Dec. 29 across the state, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygeine.
County emergency rooms have been busy in recent days treating patients with the flu and those with gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses, Borenstein-Levy said.
At Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, about 30 extra patients a day are visiting the emergency room, many of them complaining of flu-like symptoms, said hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Plaia.
Across Maryland, flu-related emergency room visits total 8,332 so far this year, according to the Sun.
With several months still left in the flu season, doctors are encouraging residents to get vaccinated.
“I believe with the early upswing in cases and the type of strain that we are seeing, this is definitely gearing up to be a bad year," Dr. Andrea Dugas, an emergency room physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital, told The Sun.