Patients flooding the ER with H1N1

By Rebecca Lane - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - You're coughing and have a slight fever.  With the H1n1 scare, do you head to the emergency room or stay home?  As numbers flood local ERs, it's evident which option people are choosing.

"We have seen probably at least forty to fifty more people every day in our emergency department," Kathryn Blackman explains, "and we're an emergency department that sees over fifty thousand visits a year already."

Blackman is the Assistant Vice President of Education/Epidemiology/Emergency/Dialysis. She says the possibility of a flu pandemic has been discussed for years.  St. Bernard's, along with other medical facilities across the state, have been anticipating and preparing for this since early 2007.

"When this pandemic hit," she explains, "we'd been anticipating it would for quite some time. We had our plan, our template to work off of and what we've done is just fine-tuned it to meet the situation."

At each entrance, there is a sign that instructs individuals to put on a mask if they are experiencing respiratory issues or flu-like symptoms.  If a staff member comes in direct-contact with an infected patient, they wear a mask as well.  Within the waiting room, there are two rooms to usher patients into to quicken the registration process.  All of these efforts help to minimize exposure to other patients.  Despite the severity of possibly infecting someone, Blackman assures the sickest patients---whether flu or heart attack or being victim of an accident---will be seen first.

Blackman points out that even if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, that does not mean you should head to the ER.  She says the best option for everyone is to stay home to rest.  This will be good for you and keep the spreading to a minimum.  She does add, however, there are exceptions, such as a young child contracting the illness, if you are pregnant, or if you already have certain conditions that would make you more susceptible to contract H1N1.

According to the Center for Disease Control, individuals should only seek emergency room assistance if they have the emergency warning signs of the flu.

These emergency warning signs include:

In children:  fast breathing or trouble breathing, bluish skin color, not drinking enough liquids, not waking up or not interacting, being irritable and not wanting to be held, flu-like symptoms improve but  then return with a fever and worse cough, or a fever with a rash.

In adults:  difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness or confusion, or severe or persistent vomiting.

The CDC also adds if you choose to stay home, stay home for at least 24 hours and stay away from others as much as possible.

For more information on the h1n1 flu, visit the Center for Disease Control's website:

There is also a map on the CDC's website that will keep you updated on the national spread of h1n1.

©2009 KAIT

All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.