Swine flu fears jamming emergency departments

Flood newspapers, radio and television with publicity about a potentially deadline pandemic, and what do you get? Well, overflowing emergency departments, for one thing.

Many U.S. hospitals are being overwhelmed by patients who fear that they might have the H1N1 virus, even though they may have few, if any, symptoms to cause them concern. As a result, waiting times have dramatically increased for ED visitors to at hospitals, including for those who truly need emergency care.

Children's hospitals are particularly susceptible to this increase, given that children get respiratory illnesses often--and that parents are particularly fearful that their children have a serious illness. One such hospital, Children's Memorial Hospital of Chicago, saw its ED volume go up from an average of 170 patients per day to 392 earlier this week. Waits for ED services have climbed from an hour or two to six hours.

The flu scare hasn't been easy on laboratories, either. At North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health Systems, for example, one of its laboratories recently did two months' work over six days testing specimens for swine flu.

To learn more about the swine flu's impact:
- read this piece from The New York Times

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Swine flu clamor a distraction from real issues