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Suburban hospitals gear up to handle flu influx
By Robert McCoppin | Daily Herald Staff

Margarita Alba of Streamwood and her flu-stricken sons, 2-year-old Ricardo and 4-year-old Jose Luis, visit a mobile unit at St. Alexius Hospital in Hoffman Estates that was opened for overflow flu patients from the emergency room.


Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Registered nurse Janice Grams looks for supplies in the St. Alexius Hospital mobile unit, set up for overflow flu patients from the ER.


Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/24/2009 12:01 AM | Updated: 10/24/2009 12:14 AM

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Chicago area hospitals are taking extra steps to handle an influx of flu patients, setting up special processing clinics and visitation rules.

St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates has set up a trailer to exclusively handle the flow of flu patients.

While the hospital's emergency room normally handles about 150 people daily, spokeswoman Cyndi Alexander said, it's been seeing up to 50 extra patients a day with flu-like symptoms, primarily fevers and sore throats or coughs.

Most of the flu patients have mild to moderate cases, so if they don't have any other health issues and are able to walk, they're checked out by a doctor or nurse, possibly given Tamiflu if their symptoms warrant it, told to drink plenty of fluids and sent home.

So they don't delay all other patients waiting for help, the flu patients are being separated into a trailer the hospital rented out and opened Thursday.

It's expected to run at least for a week during the busiest hours, from 3 to 12 p.m.

In the past month, St. Alexius has admitted 10 to 15 patients with more serious flu symptoms, but none who required intensive care.

Other hospitals also have taken extra steps to handle flu patients and stem the spread of flu.

Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville opens a flu clinic in its emergency department for patients not requiring admission.

Edward Hospital in Naperville is limiting the number of visitors, especially children, to its intensive care and obstetrics units.

All the hospitals put admitted patients with the flu in private rooms, and ask those with respiratory problems, such as colds or flu, to wear masks while in the public areas of the building.

Like other medical facilities, Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield reported an increase in the number of flu patients, but most cases were not severe.

"Things are very busy," CDH spokeswoman Amy Jo Steinbruecker said, "but quite under control."