Clinics overflowing with people infected with the flu

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PITTSBURGH - Emergency rooms and walk-in clinics are overflowing with people infected with the flu, and experts said this flu season could end up being as bad as the H1N1 outbreak of 2009.

Ashlea Caldwell is a preschool teacher, and has dealt with a runny nose and cough for days. She said she wanted to get medical treatment, but it wasn’t easy.

“I stopped somewhere else on my way in there, and there was a three-hour wait. So I thought it would be a little while, but not that long,” Caldwell said after visiting Urgent Care.

Wait times at some Urgent Care clinics are surpassing the two-hour mark, officials said. Some people have reported waiting up to four hours.

“We’re seeing a lot of vigorous activity at this point,” Kris Ehresmann, of the Minnesota Department of Health, said.

According to Ehresmann, the flu season started a lot earlier than usual this year, and is on track to be the highest since 2009.

"Everything we've been hearing from our partners suggests that things are very busy and our own data shows that there's an upward trend. There's potential that this could be a significant season for us," Ehresmann said.

Dr. Judy Kuczenski said she sends most of her patients home with a prescription for medicine, and tells them to drink lots of fluids.

“Wash your hands and cover your cough,” Kuczenski said. “Just stay home from work or school if you’re sick.”