BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) Flu hospitalizations and deaths are still rising. Friday the C-D-C reported an additional 16 pediatric flu deaths. That brings the total of children killed by the virus so far to 53.
In Southwest Virginia, even emergency crews are seeing a rise in calls because of the flu.
The Blacksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad Chief said it's been close to a dozen calls for an ambulance due to the flu over the last week. While he admitted it may not sound like a lot, it is when compared to the average number of calls.
“Usually we don't get a lot of calls for the flu but we have seen an increase in the last week, week and a half, and the biggest fear for us is cross contamination,” Chief David English explained.
The squad began preparing for flu season months ago when members were encouraged to get the flu shot. But with only 30% effectiveness this year, there are other measures taken as well.
“To protect other patients and our other crew, we take cleaning very seriously,” Chief English said. “So we really spend a lot of time decontaminating the back of the ambulance and the stretcher, just to make sure that we're not spreading germs to the next patient.”
The squad also carries more masks with them and puts them on both patients and volunteers when at a flu call. That's very important considering it's not patients that just feel sick or have a fever calling 9-1-1.
“We get the patients that have either had the flu for a while or they might have other medical issues going on as well that the flu has made worse. We've seen several in the nursing home as an example,” English said.
Despite seeing more calls, the squad said they weren't sure if there really is a spike going on as only the health department has the records.
So Chief English reached out to other squads in the area.
He said of what he heard back, “A lot of the flu cases have been going on in some other localities for quite a while. But here recently we've noticed a pretty good increase, not just in Blacksburg but throughout the county.”
With that being the case, he said he expects the trend to continue, at least, over the next few weeks. But his squad is ready with masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer for the rest of the flu season.