Spike in flu cases prompts Reading Health System to establish hotline

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Published: Jan 30 2013 01:52:25 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 03 2013 06:06:16 PM EST

An increasing number of suspected flu cases around the region has prompted Reading Health System to set up a flu hotline.

The hotline -- 484-628-1FLU (1358) -- is available Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.

The Reading Hospital said it is currently treating about 80 patients in isolation for flu-like symptoms, which is much higher than the normal two to eight patients, said officials, adding that the emergency department is reporting about 100 to 200 patients a day being treated for flu or flu-like symptoms.

The free flu hotline is staffed by trained hospital personnel who will provide information based on the caller's age, reported symptoms, and other health-related conditions, officials said.

Depending on the information provided, officials said recommendations may be made to "rest and take fluids and over-the-counter medication, make an appointment with your doctor today or seek immediate medical assistance."

The information, official said, is not intended to replace a medical consultation with a physician and does not constitute a diagnosis.

The health system also provided the following tips for preventing the flu:

Common flu symptoms, the health system said, include:

It is easy to confuse flu with colds and other health problems, said health officials, who added that otherwise-healthy people with flu symptoms usually do not benefit from a trip to the emergency room and are better off at home with over-the-counter treatments to ease their symptoms.

Health officials said you should, however, call your doctor if:

Doctors said you should go to the emergency room if you become seriously ill with symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, confusion, or if you are unable to eat or drink.

The Reading Health System provided the following tips if you do get sick:

Do not return to work or other outside activities until 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicines, health officials said.