U.S. Hospitals Battle Flu Outbreak

Emergency rooms and clinics are flooded with people getting the flu earlier than expected.
3:08 | 01/10/13

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Transcript for U.S. Hospitals Battle Flu Outbreak
People are flooding clinics and emergency rooms across the country. Some facing 24-hour waits. Boston's declared a public health emergency. And abc's linsey davis has the latest from massachusetts general hospital. Good morning, linsey. Reporter: Good morning, george. Inside this hospital, they're taking precautions we haven't seen since the swine flu outbreak in 2009. Doctors and nurses are being advised to wear protective masks. And the emergency room here is so overwhelmed, if you have to be admitted, it can take up to 24 hours. State of emergenc this morning, public officials are pleading with the public to protect themselves against one of the biggest flu epidemics in a decade. I can't say enough, please, everyone out there, get to the health centers this weekend. Get your flu shot. Reporter: Boston mayor, tom meno, says his city's under siege. And it's getting worse by the day. 700 cases have been reported in boston since october. That's ten-times more than the city saw during the entire flu season last year. Absolutely awful. I can't breathe. Reporter: And the cdc says, 18 children have died across the country. Another indicator of flu activity around the country? Google, which put together a trend map that shows flu-related searches are off the charts this year. Right now, officials are urging vaccinations for everyone 6 months and older. But they warn even the flu shot may not be enough to ward off the virus. The city is also working with health care centers to provide free flu shots. Amy? All right, linsey. Thanks so much. And abc news chief health and medical editor, dr. Richard besser, joins us now. I have to say, both myself and josh elliott were scared enough yesterday. We got our flu shots. Our kids had their shots beforehand. So many parents are making sure their kids are vaccinated. Still, you can get the flu. What do you do next? Keep your kids home, so they're not spreading it. Make sure they're getting enough fluids because children can get dehydrated with this. And think about tamiflu. Especially the young children, those under 2, or any child with a medical problem. Even something like asthma. Tamiflu can reduce complications. And how do you tell the difference between a cold and a flu? My daughter's cough right now. Should I be worried? It can be hard, especially early, to tell the difference. But the warning signs, the danger signs, will be the same regardless of the illness. I'm a pediatrician and a parent. And children can't often tell you what's going on. First thing you want to make sure is they don't get dehydrated. They have to take enough fluids in. A child who is getting better and turns for the worse, that could be a sign they have a bacterial infection on top of what else was going on. And shortness of breath. Any child who has trouble catching their breath. In a young child, it could mean they have a weak cry. They need to be seen immediately. That's a danger sign. Dr. Besser, thank you. To the white house, now. Where president obama is firming

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