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Numbers of flu and respiratory illnesses continue to rise


Numbers of flu and respiratory illnesses continue to rise, leading to longer wait times in ED and CareToday.

No appointment needed for flu shots in Family Medicine at Pioneer and Patton Clinics.

MOSES LAKE – Influenza-like illnesses, including flu and RSV, in Washington are currently very high, according to the Washington State Department of Health (WSDH). This means when patients arrive at the Samaritan Hospital Emergency Department (ED) or CareToday clinics at Pioneer or Patton locations, they may need to wait longer than usual to be treated.

The convenience of CareToday means you can walk in and see a healthcare provider for minor injuries and illnesses without an appointment. However in the current situation with a rise in cases of serious illnesses, patients may be seen first if they have life-threatening conditions, rather than according to their arrival times.

“All walk-in influenza shots are given in the Family Medicine department, whether you are a patient at Samaritan or not. Being vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and your family from serious illness due to the flu, especially with more exposure to germs due to holiday gatherings and events,” said Dr. Andrea Carter, Chief Medical Officer at Samaritan Healthcare. “When you get a flu vaccine, it takes two weeks for it to protect you. Since the flu is making an earlier appearance than before, we encourage everyone to be vaccinated in order to stay healthier this winter.”

In the last six weeks, influenza cases have greatly increased, according to the data from WSDH. They reported the deaths of one child and six adults, with influenza A as the predominant strain appearing this year.

“The influenza vaccine has variable effectiveness, depending on how well the virus and vaccine match—this year, we have a good match,” said Dr. Carter. “We are seeing a much higher incidence of seasonal respiratory illnesses this year, so getting a vaccine against influenza is even more important this year to keep our community healthy. We have all preservative-free vaccines and formulations are based on age: 6 months to 18 years old, 19–64 years old, and 65-plus. Nasal flu-mist is not available. There is no vaccine for RSV. Our most vulnerable are small children, so preventing exposure is our best strategy at this time.”

There is no need to schedule an appointment for a flu shot and you don’t need to be a Samaritan patient to receive one. Walk-ins for flu shots are welcomed at Family Medicine at both Pioneer and Patton clinics.

Being current on your vaccinations, hand-washing, covering your cough, and staying home if you feel ill are still recommended ways to help stop the spread of flu and other respiratory illnesses. If you or a family member, especially the very young or elderly, exhibit symptoms of flu, contact your doctor about further treatment.

The natural course of influenza is to see a peak of influenza A early in the season and then a peak of influenza B later in the season. At Samaritan, we test for both, but we currently are seeing primarily influenza A.

“We are so thankful for our dedicated providers and we appreciate your patience if you need to visit ED or CareToday,” said Dr. Carter. “We are all committed to offering high-quality care. While those with life-threatening conditions will be seen first, no one will be turned away.”

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