Flu season keeping paramedics busy

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There's alarming news concerning our deadly flu outbreak.

There are now 40 people in Indiana who have died from the flu. There were no deaths in the state during last year's flu season.

As the alarm sounds at Wayne Township's Fire Station 85, paramedics move into high gear, hopping into an ambulance and heading out. It's just one of several runs the team has been on all day. In minutes, they'll know if the run is all part of this year's deadly flu season.

"During the normal flu season, we see, on average, between two to five additional runs, per truck, per day," said Chief Justin Sparks.

This flu season, though, has been anything but normal.

Marion County alone has already had five flu-related deaths. Hospitals here have been following a restricted visitors policy. The Marion County Health Department says they've seen increased visits to emergency rooms because of the flu.

"Right now, on any given day, each of our trucks is seeing an average of two to three additional runs related to flu-type symptoms," explained Chief Sparks.

"Middle aged, young, old. No one's safe," said Wayne Township Paramedic Kari Ruble.

Health experts have said the very young and very old, however, are the most susceptible.

Wayne Township's Station 85 has several nursing homes and assisted living facilities in its coverage area.

"For the older folks living in those facilities, sometimes it can get worse, because they get sicker," explained Wayne Township Paramedic Pat Rupenthal.

"High fever. Coughing. Sneezing. Sore throat. Just the general body aches," added Ruble of the symptoms paramedics have been seeing on runs.

Symptoms that, for older people, can be deadly.

While they may be treating patients with the flu, first responders are not immune to the virus either. At the Wayne Township Fire Department, they've had four paramedics out at once during this flu season.

"Actually, we have masks and I like to put masks on the patients, usually they're the ones coughing and everything," said Ruble.

"When the illness strikes, it spreads very quickly," said Chief Sparks.

That's why many paramedics said they've already had a flu shot this year.

When your job is taking care of other people at their worst, these first responders know, flu season or not, they have to be at their best.