ER's crowded due to swine flu fears

The emergency room at Providence St. Joseph in Burbank is seeing 20 percent more patients than usual due to fears of the swine flu. ER physician Philip Schwarzman says he's never seen this kind of hysteria.

"People are having flu like illnesses such as: coughing, runny nose, sore throat and fevers. Normally they would stay home and take care of it, but because of their concerns and fears they're coming to emergency department," said Dr. Schwarzman.

Misinformation about the current H1N1 flu strain is fueling fears. Scientists from the centers of disease control say they are seeing slight changes in the virus, but it's too early to say if there's been any changes in resistance.

"These virus can be very unpredictable. You won't be able to predict what's going to happen that's why it has to be monitored so closely," said Dr. Schwarzman.

Many have compared this new virus to the flu pandemic of 1918 which killed 50 million people. Dr. Schwarzman says it's too early to say if this strain is similar in strength, but there are some important differences between now and then.

"There were no medications to treat the flu or limit the extent of the flu. Also the health conditions and the crowding is much different that they are now," said Dr. Schwarzman.

Dr. Schwarzman expects to see a range of illness from mild to severe. He advices people not to come to emergency unless they are really sick.

"The most important thing that anyone can is to stay home if they have these symptoms and we're talking about a temperature over a 100, cough, mild body ache and treat it like you would a simple cold," said Dr. Schwarzman.

Again - doctors reiterate that unless you show specific signs of the flu - high fever, pain in the chest, difficulty breathing, muscle aches and fatigue - you can probably save yourself a trip to the emergency room. Scientists say there's no reason right now to change your normal routine.



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