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Thursday, December 19 2013
Press release

Flu and gastroenteritis: Tips to avoid the emergency room during the holidays

Montreal, Thursday December 19th, 2013 – Each year during the holidays, Montreal hospitals face higher than normal patient volumes in emergency rooms. The holidays are a time for all sorts of gatherings and get-togethers; therefore we must be ready for an increase in the number of flu cases at the end of December and throughout the month of January. The same can be said for gastroenteritis. A large number of children and adults who rush to Montreal ERs suffer from benign flu, gastroenteritis and fever symptoms. In addition to contributing to the spread of these viruses, higher patient volumes put pressure on ERs, which in turn adds to waiting times, especially for non-urgent cases.

Flu shot: simple, fast and efficient
“Getting a flu shot is still the easiest and fastest way to avoid catching the flu. It’s the best protection against this illness and its complications, especially for individuals whose health is vulnerable”, states Dr. Richard Massé, director of public health in Montreal. Remember that there is still time to get your flu shot in any of the Montreal CSSS vaccination clinics.

Care at home: often the best solution
“It is important that parents be ready for the flu season by obtaining as much information as possible as to how to maintain their children’s health, how to care for minor illnesses and injuries at home and when to consult a physician or rush to the emergency room. Children that need emergency care will be given priority. However, any patient presenting cold, flu or gastroenteritis symptoms will have to wait several hours to see a doctor. Whether you are a child or an adult, benign flu, gastroenteritis and fever symptoms generally last 3 to 5 days, and can be treated at home. Emergency services must be reserved for individual’s whose health requires emergency care”, states Dr. Antonio D’Angelo, chief medical officer at the CHU Sainte-Justine emergency room. If you have caught the flu, drink plenty of liquids and get lots of rest. You can also ask your pharmacist for a few tips on how to relieve your symptoms.

“Flu remains a relevant and unpredictable illness in the 21st century despite modern medicine. In Canada, it infects up to a quarter of the population annually, resulting in 5,000 to 25,000 hospitalizations and 1,000 to 5,000 deaths,” says Dr. Frederic Dankoff, site director for the Royal Victoria Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine at the MUHC. “We have already seen an increase in cases this month, which means flu season has officially begun – right in time for our holiday season. As person-to-person transmission is the main way the flu spreads, we remain its best ally as well as its main target. Don't help the flu spread: wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home if you’re sick, and avoid vulnerable people.”

Alternatives to the ER
“If you are sick or worried about the health of a loved one, call Info-Santé at 811. The Info-Santé nursing staff is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, to offer guidance as to which health professional to consult, as well as when and where. You can also consult your family physician, CLSC services or head to your nearest network walk-in clinic. Family medicine groups are also a great solution, as well as pharmacists”, explains Dr. Jacques Ricard, director of general services and chronic diseases at the Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de Montréal.

For information on operating hours of network clinics and CSSSS in the Montreal area, log on to www.santemontreal.qc.ca. The CHU Sainte-Justine and Montreal General Hospital sites also offer tips and valuable information for parents to better evaluate the health of their loved ones www.chu-sainte-justine.org ; www.muhc.ca.

For more information about the flu shot in the Montreal area, log on to: www.vaccinationmontreal.ca.

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For information

Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de Montréal
MUHC Montreal General Hospital
CHU Sainte-Justine

For information: 
Rebecca Anne Burns
Communications consultant
McGill University Health Centre

Mélanie Dallaire
Main consultant, media relations
CHU Sainte-Justine 

Lise Chabot
Media relations and emergency measures
Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de Montréal

Persons mentioned in the text
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Updated on 9/9/2014
Created on 5/19/2014
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