Flu cases prompt increase in clinic visitsby Ambar Espinoza, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The news of a confirmed case of H1N1 flu in Cold Spring, and a second probable case in Isanti County has prompted an increase in visits to health care facilities in those areas.
Tim Burke, spokesperson for Allina Hospitals & Clinics, says medical staff at Cambridge Medical Center in Isanti County have seen a slight uptick in patients coming through the emergency department. They're also receiving a large number of calls from people describing symptoms and asking questions about this new flu.
"In our same day clinic in Cambridge, we'd normally see on a day like this 50 or so patients through this time of day and they've seen 65 so far," he said.
Burke says some of those patients have said they have respiratory symptoms, but none of these patients has passed an H1N1 screening tool prepared by the state health department. Burke suspects news of the second probable case of the new flu in the area has made people more sensitive to their symptoms.
"I think one of the other things is that we're into allergy season and there's also some other kind of bug going around--kind of a cold related type of thing going around--so those are going to give people some of the same types of symptoms that they're hearing about with the H1N1 virus," he said.
In Stearns County, where health officials found the first case, clinics and hospitals also saw an initial uptick in visits, but public information officer Don Adams says that's already gone down.
Stearns County set up a flu information hotline to answer the public's questions. And state health officials continue to stress the same message about the best way to stop the spread of germs.
"If they have fever and respiratory symptoms, they should stay home," said state epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield. "These are the messages we really feel are important to go out. As this becomes more established in the community, that is the key message."
Lynfield says employers can help by letting their sick employees stay home to recover. She says the state has a stockpile of 600,000 doses of anti-viral medicine and expects another 200,000 doses from the federal government.
Lynfield says state health officials sent out anti-virals to different parts of Minnesota, but those anti-viral doses will be used judiciously. She says they want to make sure Minnesota has enough medicine on hand in case the state experiences a severe wave of this new flu. They also don't want people to develop a resistance to the anti-viral medicine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will send laboratory tools this weekend to every state. And Lynfield says Minnesota will be able to run its own H1N1 testing by the beginning of next week.
- All Things Considered, 05/01/2009, 5:20 p.m.