Raleigh, N.C. — President Barack Obama has declared the H1N1 virus outbreak a national emergency, giving hospitals the power to move emergency rooms offsite to speed treatment and protect noninfected patients.
The declaration, signed Friday evening, comes with the virus more prevalent than ever and production delays interrupting vaccine distribution.
As a result of H1N1 spread, Raleigh's WakeMed and other area hospitals are tracking the number of potentially sick patients.
WakeMed officials said nearly 11 percent of people showing up in the emergency room lately have displayed signs of the virus.
Officials said the patient load is manageable, however.
"If we need to set up treatment sites, other than at the hospital, we would notify our local licensing agency and then they would work with the center for Medicare or Medicaid, and they would help us get permission to be able set up health care sites at other places,” said Dr. Barb Bisset, director of WakeMed Emergency Services.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says those at highest risk of contracting H1N1 flu are pregnant women, individuals ages 6 months to 24 years, people 25 to 64 with underlying health issues, health care and emergency workers and anyone caring for children younger than 6 months old. They are urging those people to get vaccinated.
A shipment of 200 injectable H1N1 vaccines arrived at the Durham County Health Department Wednesday. High-risk people can get the vaccine Friday at the 414 East Main St. location.
Shots will be given from 8:30 a.m. until 11 a.m., and 1 p.m. until 4 p.m., or until the vaccine runs out. For more information on Friday’s clinic, call the H1N1 Vaccine Information Line at 919-560-7882.