SPOKANE, Wash. – Local hospitals have seen an influx of flu-related patients visiting the emergency room, according to the Spokane Regional Health District.

They saw about 100 patients hospitalized in a one-week span, much higher than average, even during flu season. Healthcare professionals are encouraging anyone seeing normal flu symptoms to first visit their local health care provider or an urgent care center before visiting the emergency room – unless symptoms are life-threatening.

Hospital overcrowding can affect the pace that patients receive care, and many normal flu-symptoms can be addressed by a family physician or urgent care doctor, as opposed to an emergency room doctor.

The problem not only spans across Eastern Washington but also into North Idaho. According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, participating hospitals saw that 7.4 percent of emergency room visits were for influenza-like-illness. This is up sharply from the baseline percentage of 2.4 percent of patients. Furthermore, of the 13 recorded deaths in the 2017-2018 flu season, eight of them occurred in the panhandle region, which includes the five northern counties of Idaho.

Flu-related absences even caused Kellogg School District and Pinehurst Elementary School, to cancel classes . The schools will reopen on Monday, January 15.

The flu can easily spread from person to person with a cough, touch, or even talking in close proximity to someone who is contagious. Health care professionals urge people to get a flu vaccine shot, as it is the best option to prevent contracting the seasonal flu.