Queens emergency rooms fill with worried patients

“People in the emergency room appear anxious and worried,” said Cynthia Bacon, spokesperson for New York Hospital Queens (NYHQ), on Tuesday, April 28.

The hospital, over the course of 24 hours, had had 447 people in the ER – 100 more than normal – on worries of symptoms of swine flu.

“At this point, we have had no cases of swine flu confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC),” Bacon told The Courier.

At Flushing Hospital, however, according to Ole Pedersen, Vice President of Public Affairs, a nine-year-old was admitted over the weekend and discharged on Monday, April 27.

Additionally, two Saint Francis Prep students were treated and released at Jamaica Hospital, which, along with Flushing and Peninsula, makes up the MediSys network in Queens.

“We’ve had other people come in with fevers,” said Pedersen on Monday, “but not an abnormal number at this point.”

He said that MediSys is reporting patients with flu-like symptoms to the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).

“We saw a lot of patients in the last week-and-a-half,” said Dr. Robert Mittman, a Bayside immunologist in private practice.

He told The Courier that many of these were teachers and nurses from Saint Francis Prep and P.S. 177, and that most were fairly symptomatic, but none was very sick.

Only the “very sick” are to be swabbed for swine flu, according to Mittman.

“I think it has the potential to really spread,” said Dr. David Di John, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist with MediSys.

He explained that, “The way this virus spreads is via respiratory droplets – these can be deposited on doorknobs” and other surfaces.

Di John advised that early treatment for swine flu is a must, and suggests that you visit your doctor if you have been to Mexico recently, have been in contact with someone infected, or if you exhibit high fever, difficulty breathing, severe cough or other symptoms such as sudden dizziness, confusion or severe or persistent vomiting.

The most effective way to lower the risk of transmission is for people with symptoms to stay home, according to the DOHMH.

In children, according to the CDC, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

• Fast breathing or trouble breathing

• Bluish skin color

• Not drinking enough fluids

• Not waking up or not interacting

• Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

• Fever with a rash

According to the CDC, there are everyday actions people can take to stay healthy.

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way. Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

• Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.

• If you get sick, the CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

“There is a lot of unwarranted hysteria,” said Mittman.

For more information on the swine flu, visit www.cdc.gov.

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