By Jeff Labine
paNOW.com

The flu season is keeping Parkland Ambulance paramedics busy, so those with stuffy noses might have to wait a bit longer for service.

Paramedics responded to 74 incidents over the weekend with the majority of those being categorized as “sick persons.” Sick persons is a broad way to categorize calls by 911 dispatchers, and can range from non-specific injuries and stomach pain to those complaining of flu-like symptoms.

But just because someone calls in sick doesn’t mean they should expect an ambulance to arrive right away. Lyle Karasiuk, the director of public affairs for Parkland Ambulance, said his organization relies on the dispatcher and call centres to ask key questions to help prioritize calls.

“If you have chest pain versus a running nose, then that’s a different priority and a different level of response,” he said.

“You could have a sick person who complains of shortness of breath, clammy skin and that would change their priority and level as well. [If the caller] answers the appropriate questions that are given to them, that will dictate the priority of the call.”

Karasiuk said a high percentage of those categorized as sick persons might have the flu, but it can’t be determined until the patient arrives at the hospital.

“We have been seeing more people in the last few weeks especially with our cold weather that have been related to respiratory, nausea, vomiting and what we would classify as flu-like symptoms,” he said adding this was more prevalent in the very young, and the very old.

Although Karasiuk didn’t have the information readily available, he believes the number of calls for service is comparable to last year. Parkland typically sees an increase in calls for service during the winter months because people are in close quarters with each other, causing illnesses to spread more quickly.

Last week paNOW reported 25 lab confirmed cases of influenza in the health region.