Hospital answers questions as national H1N1 guidelines change - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Hospital answers questions as national H1N1 guidelines change

By Crystal Britt - bio | email

SIKESTON, MO (KFVS) - Doctors' offices across Region 8 are reporting more and more cases of the flu.

Health officials say it's pretty early for the seasonal flu, so many of those cases are presumed to be H1N1.  That word "presumed" is still causing a lot of confusion.

We've seen it this week as schools sent home letters to parents saying there's a "presumed" case of H1N1 in the district. The information might seem a little concerning, or confusing.

That's because under new CDC guidelines, hospitals and health departments aren't sending off labs to the state any more to confirm whether a patient has H1N1.

Workers in the lab at Missouri Delta Medical Center in Sikeston are very busy these days.  They say they've ran about 15 tests in the last two days, all suspected of the flu virus.  

"I've had six positive influenza A's this week, it's just started this week," said Joy Cauthorn, Infection Control & Safety Nurse Manager.

It's not even halfway through September and hospitals are preparing for the worst.

Staff at Missouri Delta Medical Center are taking extra precautions when it comes to handling H1N1.

"When they're hospitalized we're currently using airborne isolation techniques using a negative pressure room," said Cauthorn. 

At the hospital right now, a 34-year-old female is in isolation, presumed to have H1N1.  Cauthorn says the patient contracted the virus then developed pneumonia which complicated the situation even more.  Doctors, again, are not for sure if she really has H1N1.

"We're not sending samples to the state or CDC, no one is," said Cauthorn. 

Cauthorn says it's mainly because the treatment for H1N1 is basically the same for the seasonal flu, and the testing isn't cheap.

"For us, it's almost $400 to test," said Cauthorn. 

Local physicians aren't taking any chances as they too just assume that patients with the flu likely have H1N1.

"We try to segregate them from other patients and immediately put a mask on them, and talk to them about washing hands frequently while they're in our office," said Dr. Ken Stone.

Stone says, however, a patient with H1N1 will likely feel a lot worse than if they just had a cold.

"What we're concerned about is that the spread of the disease is going to be more significant than the typical flu," said Stone. 

So doctors can't stress enough, if you're sick stay home.

But, if you're feeling really awful head to your doctor because health officials say if you're going to need treatment... the first 48 hours is critical.

To be clear though, it's not like H1N1 testing isn't allowed.  If a doctor feels the lab work is important, a swab can be sent off to a private lab.

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