Hospital Inundated with Potential Flu Cases

Palomar Medical Center sees rush of patients complaining of flu-like symptoms

So many people have shown up at Palomar Medical Center complaining of flu-like symptoms, that hospital staff has set up a triage outside the main building.

An unusually high number of patients arrived to the hospital Wednesday night complaining of flu-like symptoms no doubt spurred by Monday's first swine flu death in the county.

Hospital administrators decided they didn’t want the potential flu patients to mix with the other patients in the emergency room according to hospital spokesperson Andy Hoang.

In the span of 6 hours Wednesday, the hospital treated 80 people in their ER. Sixty of those patients complained of flu-like symptoms. On a normal day, the hospital's ER treats approximately 160 people. On Wednesday, they saw more than 200 patients.

The triage went into operation around 2 p.m. Thursday.

By mid-afternoon Thursday, a half dozen patients with flu symptoms had been kept outside the ER to prevent the possible spread of the disease. Each wore a blue mask and was assessed by nurses and physicians at the outdoor triage, according to the North County Times.

San Diego County’s first fatality from the swine flu was treated at the hospital late last week.

Adela Chevalier, 20, died Monday after having symptoms for just a few days, according to doctors at Palomar Medical Center.

Chevalier felt ill last Friday and gradually got worse throughout the weekend, doctors said. On Monday, her mother took her to the ER at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido where she had to be put into a wheelchair because she was too weak to walk.

"She had various symptoms, low grade fever, history of cough, severe muscle pains."said Dr. Don Herip.

About an hour and a half later, preliminary tests showed that Adela had the H1N1 virus. By mid afternoon she was dead.

Chevalier’s death is the seventh swine-flu death in California; 44 people have died around the United States. Most of those victims were less than 50 years of age.

In an afternoon briefing Thursday, Dr. Wilma Wooten with San Diego County's Health and Human Services Agency reminded San Diegans that the threat from the swine flu is still real in the County.

“There is no one location in San Diego where the virus is common,” she said. "We unfortunately will see more deaths.”

County officials ask that only those with severe flulike symptoms visit emergency departments.  If you are sick, you should stay home until symptoms have gone away plus one day, according to Wooten. Video: how to protect yourself from swine flu.

Other tips from Wooten: Wash your hands before you eat and drink. Wash your hands after you sneeze, cough or blow your nose. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Avoid going to the emergency room unless you have severe symptoms. 

For more information on swine flu symptoms and who you can call for information in San Diego County, click here.

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