Mild flu symptoms don't need hospital visit

April 28, 2009 7:31:24 PM PDT
San Francisco public health officials are urging people with flu-like symptoms to stay home, saying the situation does not warrant running in for a test and that medication is available for treatment if necessary.

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The San Francisco Department of Public Health says anyone with mild flu-like symptoms should treat them like the normal flu at this point.

Dr. Susan Fernyak says some clinics and emergency rooms report being inundated with worried patients.

"We do not want people to go get tested for swine flu; stay home, even if you have swine flu, if it's mild, stay home," Fernyak said.

Fernyak says there is no evidence the swine flu will be a killer flu here as it has been in Mexico. If it does spread, the government has released stockpiles of Tamiflu for treatment and prevention and there appears to be plenty of Tamiflu in the pharmacy systems right now.

"If an outpatient physician prescribes Tamiflu, there should be no problem getting it," Fernyak said.

But travel medicine specialist Dr. Robert Dobrow says availability is a problem.

"I called one of the Walgreens pharmacies this morning and what they did have in stock was gone, and the manufacturers are releasing one dose a month to the pharmacies," Dobrow said.

At Parnassus Heights Pharmacy, the owner says he has one on the shelf with a waiting list of doctors who want six, but the wholesaler will only supply two a day.

Some people stocked up with an online pharmacy during the bird flu outbreak.

"I keep it at home in a safe place; we have a lot of it, I bought enough for ten people," Eric Greenberg said.

Dobrow and the CDC recommend anyone who must travel to Mexico should take Tamiflu before departing. It can reduce the severity and duration of the virus.

"There's data to suggest it actually reduces mortality as well," Dobrow said.

Dobrow also suggests locating health care facilities at your destination before departing.

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