Emergency flu symptom calls tying up ambulances in Collier County

The flu epidemic is only getting worse. At least five children have died in Florida from flu complications, and 37 more have died across the country.

And now, people are panicking, calling ambulances just for the flu. In some cases, this is causing resources to be tied up that could have been used for more serious medical conditions.

Collier County EMS says compared to last year, hundreds of additional flu patients have called for an ambulance. Experts say this is diverting them from emergencies and putting lives at risk.

As the number of flu cases continues to rise in Florida, emergency services says so have their number of patient calls.

Tabitha Butcher, chief of Collier County EMS, says the tremendous increase of flu calls is troubling. And right now, Collier County only has 26 ambulances available to respond.

“It’s either a sign of people utilizing the EMS system more for just basic ailments or that the flu is really impacting us this year,” she said.

Butcher adds that medics responding to calls for flu symptoms delays their response to help other patients, which in some cases could be life or death.

So how do patients avoid the ambulance ride? Butcher says to visit your primary care doctor before symptoms get too severe.

Another way is to get the flu shot as a preventative measure.

Reporter:Kelsey Kushner
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