Taking the fight to the flu
WCLO's Beth Wheelock reports on the hospital's preparedness.
Mercy Hospital will offer the public a free webinar about swine flu, or H1N1, at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday by visiting www.mercywebinars.org.
The Rock County Health Department also has a swine flu information hotline at (608) 741-5200, along with information on its Web site at www.co.rock.wi.us/Dept/Health/H1N1Flu_info.htm.
JANESVILLE In October 2008, Mercy Health System’s urgent care saw four patients with flu-like symptoms.
In October 2009, that number jumped to 364.
That’s a 9,000 percent increase.
It’s one dramatic example of how swine flu, or H1N1, has hit the area.
In Mercy’s emergency department, the trend is similar. In October 2008, 57 patients visited with flu-like symptoms. That number increased to 300 this year.
A panel of Mercy officials and Karen Cain, health officer at the Rock County Health Department, provided information to the media Tuesday about H1N1.
To handle the increase of patients with the flu, the emergency department has added staff on weekday nights and weekends, said Dr. Glenn Milos, medical director of the emergency department.
Several rooms have been designated for patients with flu-like symptoms and are somewhat segregated, he said.
It’s been working really well,” he said.
Patients with minor flu-like symptoms, however, can usually be treated at home, he said. Symptoms of the swine flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, running or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigues and sometimes diarrhea and/or vomiting, he said.
The best thing to do is stay home, rest, get plenty of fluids, eat a balanced diet and let the virus run its course, he said.
“There have been a few folks who have presented to the emergency department that don’t necessarily need to,” Milos said.
But, he said, Mercy prefers seeing those people and sending them home rather than having patients not visit doctors when they have emergencies.
“We always want patients to err on the side of safety,” he said.
Milos outlined the red flags that would signal care is needed.
If a child has these symptoms, seek medical attention:
-- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
-- Bluish/purplish skin color
-- Not taking adequate fluids
-- Not interacting well; completely inconsolable
-- Fever with a rash
If an adult has these symptoms, seek medical attention:
-- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
-- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
-- Confusion or dizziness
-- Severe or persistent vomiting
Vaccine shortages continue, and officials said they don’t know how much vaccine they will receive or when it will arrive.
Mercy initially ordered 20,000 doses of the injectable H1N1 vaccine, but it has only received 2,000, said Don Janczak, director of pharmacy. The health department ordered 10,000 doses and only has received 1,700, Cain said.
The swine flu isn’t showing signs of leaving.
“We really haven’t seen the peak yet,” said Dr. Keith Konkol, infectious disease physician.