Emergency crews not immune from the Flu

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KNOXVILLE (WVLT) - Emergency response crews are not immune from the flu.

Over the last few weeks, a few departments in Knoxville have seen an increase in the number of employees calling in sick due to the various illnesses going around.

"Mostly flu like symptoms is what appears to be the number one thing," said Brent Seymour of the Knoxville Fire Department. "It's not uncommon for us to pick up some of the illnesses as we're out dealing with the emergency response we deal with every day."

According to KFD, they typically have about 85 firefighters working per shift, but over the last few days, an average of between seven and 12 have been out.

"It is an unusually high amount of persons that actually called in sick," said Seymour.

Rural/Metro has experienced a similar problem this flu season, with an average of four employees calling in sick each day.

"It's not normal, it's an increase in number of people calling off during a shift, but we are able to fill those slots and maintain staffing on the roads," said John Brinkley with Rural/Metro. "Some of them do have flu like symptoms, others are calling off because of their children being sick or spouse being sick."

In December 2007, about 200 Rural/Metro employees were given both flu shots and health tips to avoid coming down with the sickness.

"We encourage everybody to wash their hands, it's the easiest was to break the infections cycle," said Brinkley.

"We've been paying special attention to the bathrooms, to the kitchen area, the locker rooms and any place where people converge a lot," said Seymour.

Even though the increased cases of illness have hit the departments, both say they are making due.

"We have people who are more than willing to work an extra shift if needed," Seymour said.

"It's not affecting any of our response times, we are making our calls," said Brinkley

To help out your local emergency responders, and take the strain off of emergency rooms, if you just have a few symptoms, you should call or visit your family doctor instead of calling 911 or heading straight to the ER.

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