WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — United Regional is not the exception to a nationwide trend of increases in COVID-19, flu and RSV cases.

“We’re following right along with the rest of the country,” United Regional Emergency Department Medical Director John Hilmi, MD, said.

The emergency department is seeing more patients than normal, partly due to an increase in those illnesses.

“We always see a spike every year of something, so we always do a really good job I think of rising up and taking care of everybody in this community and doing the best we can, and we’re able to keep up, sometimes it gets crowded, but that’s to be expected,” Dr. Hilmi said. “The whole concept of triage is the sickest person gets brought back first, so if everyone is coming in with similar complaints, we go by their vital signs, if their oxygen level is low if their heart rate is extremely high, those are the ones we want to get back first and deal with.”

Dr. Hilmi said the crowds should be limited to those with a true emergency though.

“Not just a fever or just a cough, if there’s difficulty breathing, that obviously needs to be investigated, unable to keep anything down for a prolonged period of time, severe dehydration,” Dr. Hilmi said. “You’re coming to the emergency department and you may not really have the flu or something else, but you’re sitting in the waiting room, other people do and you’re increasing your chances of infecting yourself.”

Dr. Hilmi believes there’s a perfectly good explanation for this spike.

“It’s directly related to the masking we’ve done the last couple of years because we’ve essentially protected people from getting these other strains by wearing the mask,” Dr. Hilmi said. “Now in nature, you push something down, it’s going to come back up a little higher and then it’s going to go back down to a baseline again.”

Before it does go back down though, there are ways to avoid catching whatever your loved one in the other room has.

“Isolate your spoon, fork, cup, all that, keep it separate, wash it separate from everybody else’s because if you’re washing it in the same sink, you’re using the same sponge to wash it, you can actually transmit that virus to the other utensils,” Dr. Hilmi said. “You drink out of it and then you’re going to get it.”

While there’s no reason to panic, there is reason to be mindful to save the most wonderful time of the year from a trip to the hospital.

If someone is experiencing symptoms that don’t require emergency care, they can skip the line at the CarePlus Clinic on Barnett Road without ever getting out of the car.

It’s done through the MyChart App.