Local News

Flu fears send parents to ERs, physician offices

Posted September 15, 2009 4:35 p.m. EDT
Updated September 15, 2009 6:18 p.m. EDT

— Area physician offices and the emergency department at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center have been swamped with young patients in recent weeks, as parents scramble to deal with potential H1N1 flu cases.

"We've been swamped. It's been one of the most incredible sustained volumes we've ever seen at this time of the year," said Dr. David Smith, medical director of Cape Fear Valley's emergency department.

Since schools opened last month, the department has seen four times the usual number of children with respiratory symptoms and double the normal number with fevers, Smith said. He blames fears over H1N1, or swine flu.

"Parents are worried. They just want their child checked out. They've heard all the press reports about how bad the H1N1 virus is," he said, adding most of the children don't need emergency care and would be better off staying at home.

Michael Hayes said he had the virus a month ago. Now, his 12-year-old daughter has a fever of 103 degrees and his 11-year-old daughter has a bad cough, so he took both to the hospital be checked.

"It was rough," Hayes said of his bout with the flu. "The only thing you can do is sleep. You don't want to eat. You don't want to do anything. You just want to sleep."

Katrina Gadson said she was worried enough about H1N1 to get her 1-year-old son, Shandriq, checked.

"I'd rather just come in and not let it get any worse," Gadson said.

The symptoms of H1N1 are strikingly similar to seasonal flu, Smith said, noting they include a fever, persistent cough and body aches.

"It's just too early for the seasonal flu. We're really not seeing any seasonal flu strains," he said.

Cumberland County Schools officials said they haven't seen an unusually high number of absences, but they urged parents to keep children with flu-like symptoms at home.

County Health Director Buck Wilson echoed that precaution Tuesday, along with other preventive measures.

"The No. 1 (priority) is to clean your hands and wash your hands. No. 2 is cover your cough, and thirdly, if you're sick, you really need to stay home because the H1N1 is very easily transmitted," Wilson said.