Local drop-in emergency clinics on Saturday could confirm that illness takes no holiday, as several were quoting three-hour waiting times to patients showing up with coughs, congestion and flu-like symptoms.
“We’ve definitely seen an uptick in the number of patients,” said Teresa Miller, a patient access associate at Premier Urgent Care in China Spring, where medical staffers were dealing with symptoms of strep throat, upper respiratory distress and the flu, among other illnesses.
Julie Smith, with the media relations office of Baylor Scott & White Health, said no one was available to make an official comment about traffic in the Waco emergency room or in area clinics, “but anecdotally, I am being told we are seeing a lot of flu in our emergency room.”
Katie Davis, a clinical care specialist at Central Texas Urgent Care in Lacy Lakeview, said patients there were facing waits of three-to-four hours, and the lone physician on duty had treated at least 30 people by mid-afternoon Saturday. The clinic usually sees patients within 30 minutes to an hour.
“Yes, we are seeing a lot of flu. ‘Tis the season,” Davis said. “I would say three of every four walking through the door have flu-like symptoms.”
The Waco-Mclennan County Health District says those symptoms include fever, sore throat, cough, headache and muscle aches.
“There is a virus going around that mimics the flu,” Davis said.
She said the Central Texas Urgent Care location on Hewitt Drive saw 64 patients one day last week, about twice its normal volume.
“Again, the increase was due to what we’re seeing with the flu,” she said.
Miller, at Premier Urgent Care in China Spring, said the clinic had seen 38 patients by mid-afternoon Saturday, and the evening typically brings more people into the clinic. She said at least two patients visited Urgent Care after being told they faced waits of more than three hours elsewhere.
Calls to Premier ER locations downtown and in Woodway were answered by staffers who said they could not comment or that those authorized to discuss traffic were occupied with patients.
An employee answering the phone at Providence Express Care on Valley Mills Drive said all members of the medical staff were tied up with patients.
Likewise, the emergency room at Providence Health Center said it could not make a comment for the record about activity Saturday.
Flu cases in McLennan County have spiked recently, with more than 1,000 cases of the flu and flu-like illnesses reported by providers and schools last week, according to the Waco-McLennan County Health District.
The spike last week is within about 100 cases of the most reported in a single week for the past five flu seasons, according to city data. The historical comparison does not include flu-like illnesses.
Illnesses at West Independent School District’s elementary school caused the absentee rate to hit almost 20 percent last week. Officials responded by starting the winter break a day early.
The health district reported it is not too late to get a flu shot, as the flu season “typically does not peak until January or February.”