By George Solis

BALTIMORE (WJZ/AP) — The harsh flu season has put “a significant” stress on Maryland’s hospitals and emergency services.

State health officials said in a press release Thursday that hospitals are being overcrowded. They’re urging only the very sick to visit an emergency room.

“Every state and every hospital and every ems system is being significantly impacted by the vast number of folks seeking care associated with the influenza like illnesses and the complications that influenza illness is causing underlying diseases,” Dr. Richard Alcorta said.  “What we’re seeing now is a saturation in our hospitals”

There’s a normal increase in the number of people who go to the hospital in the winter for flu and respiratory illnesses. But the Maryland Department of Health has reported widespread cases.

Doctors say the severe virus strain behind this dramatic increase in sickness is H3N2.

Public Health Services Deputy Secretary Dr. Howard Haft said, “please be sure there is a true emergency before calling 911.”

Officials said doctors and urgent care centers can treat milder symptoms.

“CDC themselves doesn’t recommend a lot of things for it other than just supportive therapies. Good old over the counter medicines for the fever for the aches and pains, lots of fluids, a bit of rest,” said Dr. James Lacey of Patient First.

The Department of Health says over the last several weeks flu intensity has been high. All the more reason doctors are recommending the use of hand sanitizer and other germ-killing weapons are your disposal whenever possible.

Health officials say so far this isn’t the deadliest flu season, but the virus is responsible for the death of more than 30 children across the country.

“People at work get sick, you know, they do take the recommended days off so that way they won’t be spreading germs around the office,” Jason Armstrong of Bel Air said.

Doctors say it’s hard to say why there have been so many child flu related deaths, they say the can’t rule out the possibility of underlying illnesses.

The state health department does a weekly tally of reported flu cases.

The last total was for the week ending January 13, which saw more than 1,800 emergency room visits.

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(© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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