01/08/2013 10:40 am ET Updated Jan 09, 2013

Chicago Flu Outbreak Overcrowds Hospital Emergency Rooms, Forces Many To Turn Away Patients

With the Chicago area in the midst of its worst flu season in nearly a decade, a number of overcrowded area hospitals have been forced to tell ambulances to temporarily bypass their facilities and take patients elsewhere, if possible.

According to ABC Chicago, eight area hospitals had to turn away emergency room patients with the flu Monday evening due to crowding issues. At least three of them -- Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Swedish Covenant Hospital and University of Chicago Medical Center -- were reportedly still on bypass Tuesday morning.

The hospitals are being overrun with individuals suffering from the flu as the season has hit earlier and harder than it has in recent years, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. In Downers Grove, the Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital was seeing wait times of up to three hours for treatment.

Julie Morita, medical director for the Chicago Department of Public Health's immunization program, told Chicago the number of flu cases in the city are still growing.

"So far, it's just going up," Morita told DNA. "Typically the flu increases in January or later, but this is the earliest we've seen in at least the past five years."

Even those who got flu shots may not be safe from catching the viral infection: Mary Alice Lavin, director of infection, prevention and control at Rush University Medical Center explained to CBS Chicago that the flu vaccine is only effective in about 60 percent of people, though the shot should lessen the impact of the illness -- and it's not too late to still get one.

While forty-one states nationwide are also experiencing a flu outbreak, the virus's impact in Illinois has been among the most severe, according to Fox.



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