Flu season is upon us. Emergency physicians in one Georgia hospital say they are being flooded with influenza cases, causing their patient volume to increase dramatically. Last week, physicians at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital said their daily census jumped to 200, which represents a 25-30% increase from their normal emergency department volume. Hospital officials blame the flu. In just one day, 40 patients tested positive for the virus that causes influenza. Vaccination The sharp spike in influenza cases has prompted hospital officials to urge people to get vaccinated. Although vaccination is an appropriate preventive measure, it is not a guarantee against flu infection. The flu vaccine takes one to two weeks to generate an immune response and become effective. Also, the vaccine does not contain the “Victoria lineage” strain of Influenza B, which, according to the WhiteCoat’s Call Room blog, is currently in circulation. Interestingly, only one in three healthcare providers received the flu vaccine in the 2011-12 flu season. Providers skip the vaccine for many of the same reasons typical citizens cite, such as insufficient time and fear of needles. View additional excuses listed on the HealthLeaders Media website. Treatment Once a patient has contracted the virus, treatment options are limited. The author of the WhiteCoat’s Call Room post expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of medications such as Tamiflu and Relenza, going so far to say they are as effective as “red jelly beans”. Regardless of the effectiveness, the author says many patients still demand a prescription. It is likely the patients feel some level of comfort by taking something they think might help their symptoms. Maybe my mom’s classic “lots of fluids and sleep” remedy isn’t such a bad prescription.