Health News

The flu is turning deadly in South Mississippi, ER doctor says. Here’s what you need to know.

The flu is raging in South Mississippi, swamping emergency rooms and, in some cases, killing people.

“The strains are pretty dangerous this year given the fact that the vaccine wasn’t really effective,” said Simal Patel, medical director of the emergency department at Garden Park Medical Center in Gulfport.

Patel said Garden Park has seen at least four deaths from the flu this season in adults between the ages of 20 and 50 years old. The Mississippi Health Department reports only pediatric influenza deaths, with none recorded as of Jan. 6, the last date for which information was publicly available.

However, the Hattiesburg American reported Monday that a 2-year-old girl from Sumrall died as a result of complications of the flu strain B. She was brought to Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg on Sunday and died later that day.

Patel said flu sufferers have developed upper respiratory infections, and even pneumonia, often when flu symptoms are beginning to subside. The respiratory infections can be deadly.

Simal Patel
Simal Patel Garden Park

“We need to reduce the inflammation quickly before it progresses into a more complicated disease process,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of fatalities lately.”

Angie Juzang, director of marketing at Garden Park, said she knew from working at the hospital that she needed to act when her son developed a wet cough as he was getting over the flu. He had taken his full course of the prescription medicine Tamiflu when the cough started.

She took him Saturday to the Garden Park emergency room, where he was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection.

“People are dying,” Juzang said. “It’s resilient, this particular strain.”

Patel urges people to contact their primary-care physicians if they experience high fever, body aches or shortness of breath.

Memorial Hospital at Gulfport reports its emergency room has been busy with flu cases, but the hospital is also urging patients to use its clinics. The emergency room now charges a $200 deposit or an insurance co-pay before treating “non-urgent patients,” as determined by ER personnel.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99