By Robbie Owens

FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – As the flu outbreak pushes area emergency rooms to capacity, the JPS hospital system in Fort Worth is extending hours at a network of neighborhood clinics to help relieve the crush of patients.

However, doctors stressed that flu like symptoms—especially body aches and fever—should not be ignored.

“Get in to see somebody,” says Gary Floyd, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at JPS, “Your physician, one of these clinics, within the first 48 hours because that’s when the medication that can be used, is most effective and can shorten the course of this.”

Hospital officials say the situation is so severe that non-JPS patients will be welcomed, and those patients complaining of flu symptoms will be seen without appointments. Prevention is also being offered on site as well.

“You just don’t want a shot,” says Edith Odiwo, at the JPS South Campus Clinic today, when asked why she waited to get the flu vaccine.  “However, when you hear that people are dying from it…You get scared and you do want to take it.”

RELATED: This week’s Center For Disease Control and Prevention FluView report.

Both Odiwo and her mother received their first flu shots ever. In spite of their initial concerns about the safety of vaccines, they said they are now relieved to have the additional protection and the convenience of the additional clinic hours.

“Having to work during the weekday, and knowing that you can go to JPS on a weekend was very good,” says Odiwo. “And we were seen very quickly.”

Since the additional hours were announced late Thursday, hospital officials say the clinics have treated more than a hundred additional patients by Saturday.

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Some of them, representatives said, were seriously ill—but, only 20% actually tested positive for the flu.

According to health officials, it is a reminder that prevention is critical during a season when doctors are seeing so many contagious diseases—from strep throat to stomach viruses—being passed around.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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