By Andrea Lucia

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Calls for an ambulance have surged in Fort Worth, another sign the flu is taking an unusual toll.

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“We have seen a dramatic increase in our call volume,” said Matt Zavadsky, director of public affairs for MedStar.

The ambulance service, covering Forth Worth and 14 surrounding cities, reports a jump in calls, up 15% from this time last year.

Reports of difficulty breathing, severe headaches, and chest pains light up computers.

In December, it averaged 256 calls a day. The first nine days of the new year, it averaged 299. By eight o’clock Tuesday evening, it had already topped 300.

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“We normally don’t see a spike like this. Winter is usually a quiet time,” said Zavadsky.

Instead, this winter, ambulances are lined up outside emergency rooms, overflowing with patients.

“We’re actually spending a lot longer in the ER waiting for an available bed,” said Zavadsky.

MedStar has added for more ambulances and extra staff to its daily schedule. It’s also making use of alternate solutions for patients with low priority symptoms – treating them at home or setting up doctors’ appointments for them.

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