Local News

Hospitals prepared for swine flu

Posted April 28, 2009 7:00 p.m. EDT
Updated April 28, 2009 7:16 p.m. EDT

— Area hospitals have ramped up for the potential of swine flu cases multiplying across North Carolina, officials said Tuesday.

No cases of the disease have been confirmed in the state, but hospitals said they are prepared not only to treat anyone who does contract it but also to limit its spread.

"We're asking people to remember to wash their hands and use common sense. If you don't need to be in a health care setting, don't be there right now," WakeMed Chief Executive Dr. Bill Atkinson said. "I think North Carolina health care providers are ready to deal with whatever might come, and the idea is to contain that."

Hand sanitizer and masks are readily available at WakeMed, as well as at Rex Hospital in Raleigh and UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, officials said.

Rex Hospital has set up a triage station to ask patients about their symptoms and travel history before they enter the emergency room. UNC is obtaining more anti-viral medications to treat the disease.

In a worst-case scenario, WakeMed could roll out a communication truck and set up a quarantine zone with up to 200 beds for swine flu patients, Atkinson said.

In the meantime, the hospital has stepped up vigilance to identify suspected flu cases, said Jessica Dixon, an infection-control nurse at the hospital.

"We're looking for people with respiratory symptoms, sore throat, fever (and gastro-intestinal) illness. We do that all the time, but we're really ramping up surveillance now," Dixon said.

Anyone with flu-like symptoms would then be isolated while tests were conducted to determine whether they have swine flu, she said.