Kissimmee hospital treating high volume of flu patients

By Stephanie Bechara, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, January 10, 2018, 6:10 PM EST

Health officials are predicting a rough flu season. While a change in the weather may have something to do with it, local experts believe the influx of Puerto Ricans here is also playing a role.

  • Larger number of people with flu at hospital, doctor says
  • Attributes to influx of Puerto Ricans to Central Fla.
  • Puerto Ricans aren't necessarily coming with symptoms, she added

This year, there have been more flu outbreaks than typical.

“The CDC just released some of the numbers, and they noted that this year there was a 2 percent increase from last year,” said Dr. Yaritza Arriaga-O’neill, who’s the medical director for the ER at Poinciana Medical Center.

Dr. Arriaga-O'neill said she has seen larger numbers of people with the flu at their hospital lately. She believes this may have to do with the volume of patients coming from Puerto Rico.

“We did see a higher influx and we’re seeing higher a volume and higher numbers, but fortunately we have been able to care for them,” Dr. Arriaga-O'neill added.

Dr. Arriaga-O'neill said that in her experience, it does not appear that patients are coming from Puerto Rico with symptoms. She recently went to the island to lend a hand — a trip that made her realize why so many folks have evacuated here.

“Obviously since you arrive in a plane you want to see a whole different place that you know and are used to,” she explained. “It looks so different, so destroyed … But it will get there. The plants will grow again.”

While staff at Poinciana Medical Center encourage patients to get a flu shot, some local residents aren’t fond of the idea.

Take Samuel Kalloo, for example; he recalls how his mother-in-law went into a coma and later passed away after getting a flu shot some years ago.

“So I am not saying you shouldn't do it, but due to personal experience we wouldn't do it,” Kalloo said.

If someone wants to opt out of the flu shot, Dr. Arriaga-O'neill stresses one should take other precautions.

“Mainly just try to prevent it as much as you can. Everybody needs to wash their hands, if you sneeze, cover yourself. If you're sick, stay at home try not to get anybody sick,” she added.

Flu season peaks between December and March.