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El Paso flu outbreak called 'worst in years;' local hospitals running out of room in ICUs

Published On: Jan 17 2014 11:58:39 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 23 2014 01:25:05 PM CST

By ABC-7's Matt Dougherty

EL PASO, Texas -

Local hospitals are reporting an influx in flu patients being admitted to their intensive-care units and are describing the current situation as the worst seen in years.

"...Our healthcare team reports that this is the worst outbreak of flu that they have experienced since the winter of 2008-2009," University Medical Center CEO Jim Valenti wrote in an update. "It's gotten so bad in fact that half of the Medical Center's critical care beds are now occupied by extremely ill and ventilator dependent patients who are confirmed flu cases."

Officials from El Paso-area hospitals met to discuss the high demand for ventilators and the shortage of ICU beds.

Flu patients whose immune systems have been weakened by this unusually aggressive strain of the flu have contracted other illnesses in addition to the virus.

This combination of both illnesses have landed many people in the ICU on breathing machines as they fight not just H1N1, but also pneumonia, at the same time.

"ICU beds and ventilators are starting to become very scarce," Las Palmas ER director, Jennifer Castaneda, said. "They've been giving us warning to prepare to have patients transferred from county to county because the ICUs are so overwhelmed."


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