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Flu sufferers cause uptick in calls to 811

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Flu sufferers are causing an uptick in calls to 811.  The provincial HealthLink BC phone line is seeing an increase in calls because of the nasty flu and Norovirus this season.

The phone line allows British Columbians to ask nurses questions. The nurses, in turn, try to help people manage symptoms at home and determine if going to the doctor or ER is necessary.

Marie Root with HealthLink says a growing number of calls are related to the flu and stomach flu thanks to a bad season for those virus strains.

“We’ve seen a little bit of an increase this year compared to last year.  It’s up four per cent for Norovirus related calls and a seven per cent increase over last year for influenza related calls,” she explains.

“We’ve had 9,770 calls related to Norovirus and we’ve had just over 8,000 calls related to the flu (since the season started in mid-November),” she continues.

“We roughly get about 1,900 calls per day.  On the busiest day of the week, which is generally Tuesday for us, flu-related calls represent just under 16 percent of all our calls,” says Root.

A third of all flu calls are from worried parents who have children with a fever.

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There are two different things – influenza – which is a respiratory virus with a high fever and norovirus type illnesses, which cause symptoms similar to food poisoning but with a high fever (people call this ‘stomach flu’ but it is not a ‘flu at all). Both CAN be fatal under certain circumstances, for instance small children, the elderly, those with some chronic health conditions and, surprisingly, some otherwise healthy individuals.

Influenza can sometimes convert to pneumonia and sometimes you will be sweaty, have chest pains, feel very weak and will be short of breath. Those are symptoms which require 911 attention because, regardless of age, you might actually be having a heart attack. I would rather get to the emergency department, have the work up and be told that it is a false alarm, than have my family find me dead on the floor.

Some people cannot or should not take over the counter remedies because of pre-existing medical conditions or medications they take.

Most people will be fine with home treatment but it is sensible to be aware of potential problems such as dehydration and respiratory distress to name just two.

You can always go to a medically accurate, research based website such as healthlinkbc.ca and do an assessment of your symptoms or, in BC and Yukon, you can call 811 and speak with a Registered Nurse, as the article suggests. Or phone your local healthline or pharmacist for advice.

January 20, 2013 at 4:37 pm

People going to the ER and the doctor because they have the flu is ridicules! This is just the sort of attitude that creates huge expenses in the health care system. Hey people; drink fluids and take flu remedies.

January 20, 2013 at 4:58 am