Health Alert

More than 1,200 hospitalized in Wisconsin due to flu

CREATED Jan 9, 2013 - UPDATED: Jan 10, 2013

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Click on Associated Videos to find NBC's Kevin Tibbles talk with a doctor from  Wheaton Franciscan St. Francis Hospital on TODAY'S TMJ4's "Live at Daybreak."

MILWAUKEE - The flu outbreak in Wisconsin has overwhelmed hospitals and is starting to spread out of control.

As of Thursday morning, hospitals in our state have met the needs of more than 1,200 people who have battled the flu in recent days.

"All the ER's citywide, and probably nationwide, are overrun with flu patients in addition to their regular census, making beds unavailable...there's absolutely no room," said Dr. Kathleen Shallow at Wheaton Franciscan St. Francis Hospital on TODAY'S TMJ4's "Live at Daybreak."

"This is very real."

Some patients with minor problems have been sent to other hospitals because of the flu.  Some call it the worst flu outbreak in 20 years.

The peak of the flu outbreak isn't expected in Wisconsin for another month.

Best ways to prevent the flu:
= Get a flu shot
- Wash your hands

If you get the flu:
- Stay at home until you are well
- Wait at least 24 hours after fever breaks

When to go to hospital?  If you are:
- Short of breath
- Dehydrated
- Weak
- If symptoms of congestive heart failure, diabetes, emphysema are exacerbated by flu

The outbreak has received national attention, as NBC's "TODAY" has come to Milwaukee to tell the story to America on Thursday.

Dan Brezgel's eight-month-old son is just starting to feel better after the flu hit him over christmas.

"We were kind of worried when we brought him home with the flu.  Just thinking, oh great, now what?" Brezgel said.

The number of people hospitalized because of the flu has doubled just in the past week.

"We are seeing some increased levels of flu here in Wisconsin, and in Milwaukee in particular," said Dr. Jeffrey Smith of Aurora St. Luke's.

Hospitals will take flu patients, but doctors are treating the most severe cases first.

A spokesperson for Froedtert Hospital says they are so busy that they are calling in extra staff and setting up extra beds.

Doctors tell us if you think you have the flu call your doctor first before you head to the ER. That's because you might get others sick, and doctors say the best medicine is rest, fluids and Tylenol.

"If you have the flu or you feel like you have the flu, the big take home across the board is stay at home. If you have a physican, call your physican," explained Dr. Todd Arbiture of Wheaton Franciscan St. Joseph's Hospital.

"If you have heart disease or diabetes or  lung disease and develop the flu, then you need to be extra cautious.  Those are the patients who have a higher tendency to get pneumonia or other complications," said Dr. Smith.

As for the Brezgel's they are hoping little Kelvin gets better soon, and that he doesn't pass the flu around.

"Just keep him home," Brezgel said.

The state health department tells doesn't expect the flu season to peak for another couple of weeks.

Milwaukee isn't the only major city facing issues with the flu.

The Mayor in Boston has declared a health emergency because of the flu.  The Chicago Tribune is reporting that hospitals are overwhelmed with flu patients.