Hospitals inundated with panicked people

April 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
There is a growing concern about swine flu and a rush to be checked by a doctor. Bay Area hospitals are pleading with the public to stay away from the E.R. unless they really need to be there.

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Several hospitals have been inundated by people who are afraid they might have swine flu, forcing staff to set-up special processing centers.

Doctors say they're seeing a lot of worried people and fewer of those with classic flu symptoms. Regardless, everyone is being examined and hospital incident command centers popped up at four hospitals Wednesday.

"We have a lot of extra staff, we have at least two extra physicians, two extra P.A.s," said Dr. Rochelle Soper, with Sutter Delta.

In the incident command center at Sutter Delta in Antioch, doctors are preparing for another influx of people who fear they have the swine flu. They've already seen about 50, on Wednesday alone.

"I'm afraid everybody is going to come in, they're going to watch the news, they're going to eat dinner, check their child's temperature and all will have low grade fevers and they're all going to come in. Which is a very high probability and I think we're going to get another big wave," said Dr. Soper.

In the parking lot of Sutter Delta, a triage tent and screening center is set up for patients like Stephanie Ramirez.

"I'm having like my body aching, headaches, I'm coughing with phlegm and everything," said Ramirez.

Doctors say Ramirez will be swabbed. If it's Virus A, the sample is sent to the state lab in Richmond. A wave of 20 patients at John Muir Hospital in Concord, forced the opening of two triage tents.

The scene was the same at John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek, and Kaiser Permanente in Terra Linda. Still, doctors say the majority of patients were like Alyssia Knox.

"I had a slight cough on and off and I was having nausea and diarrhea. But no, I don't have a fever," said Knox.

"If you have a high fever, over 102, severe body aches, shortness of breath, severe headaches, severe dehydration, those are the folks that we want to see here," said Dr. David Birdsall from John Muir Hospital.

Doctors at John Muir and Sutter Delta say fewer than half of the patients they saw on Wednesday showed classic flu symptoms.

Since midnight, 33 patients have been seen for flu symptoms. There is one possible case, and no confirmed cases.

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