With this year's flu season the worst in almost a decade, communities are on high alert. Hospital emergency rooms (ER) have become inundated and are handling the influx of patients by adding extra staff and resources.

The Georgia Hospital Association (GHA) and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) encourage patients to call their health care providers if they are concerned about an illness and to carefully assess symptoms. Individuals who think they may have the flu should follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for when to go to the hospital. As stated on the CDC website, symptoms in adults that warrant an emergency room visit include trouble breathing, chest pain, and persistent vomiting. Those who do not have the flu, but go to the ER, risk catching it from those who do. However, anyone who is concerned about a serious or life-threatening illness should go to the ER.

Precautionary measures such as frequent hand-washing and covering coughs can help stop the spread of flu.

"Hospitals are working diligently to make sure each patient receives timely and efficient care," said GHA President Earl Rogers. "The health and safety of all patients is a priority for hospitals. Hospitals have made modifications such as changing visiting hours, implementing the use of mobile units, and providing additional staff to protect those patients at greatest risk of the flu."

GHA is working closely with state agencies to monitor and develop strategies to combat the flu epidemic. For more information about what are hospitals are doing, visit gha.org/flu.