CHEO sees jump in ER visits for flu-like symptoms
The emergency room at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario is bustling with an increased number of patients experiencing flu-like symptoms.
"Our emergency department is clearly busier than normal -- we're seeing up to 200 patients per day. So, there's extended wait times in emergency," said Judy Dennis, co-ordinator of CHEO's infection control measures.
The increase in patients comes as the H1N1 flu continues to sweep through Ottawa schools. The city's public health unit says 37 schools are now dealing with suspected cases of the virus.
The number of confirmed cases in Ottawa has jumped significantly since June 2, when the city reported only 40 confirmed cases of the virus.
On Tuesday, the City of Ottawa reported 107 confirmed cases of H1N1. Those cases involved 60 males and 47 females, ranging in age from infant to 60 years old.
Half of the confirmed cases in Ottawa involve children younger than 15 years old.
Officials at CHEO, however, are advising parents not to bring their children to emergency unless they can't be cared for at home.
"We have two different sorts of streams of patients coming in and it's very difficult to be getting through there if you're coming with kids who aren't too sick," Dennis told CTV Ottawa on Wednesday.
Dennis advised parents to only bring their children to emergency if their flu-like symptoms include:
- difficulty breathing;
- a different level of consciousness;
- or a fever that can't be controlled.
Dennis said if children are experiencing symptoms that parents can control, they should be kept at home and given lots of water and the appropriate medication to control their fever.
The head of the World Health Organization warned Tuesday that the worldwide H1N1 flu outbreak appears to have reached pandemic proportions.
World health officials also expressed particular concern about Canada's aboriginal community in Manitoba.
Although the WHO is yet to officially declare a global pandemic, many flu experts say this is already the case.
However, Dennis said the situation in Ottawa is not bad enough to heighten concerns about an impending pandemic.
"We're not seeing a level of severity in our population at the moment that is really going to tell us that we're really going to ramp up a pandemic. It's really not something we're worried about at the moment," she said.
Dennis said the majority of children who are infected with the H1N1 flu are experiencing mild symptoms of the virus. She said kids who have been admitted to hospital are children who already have underlying health problems.
Symptoms of the H1N1 flu may include:
- shortness of breath
- muscle aches
- severe headache
- sore throat
- lack of appetite
Ontarians who have general questions about the virus are asked to call the ServiceOntario INFOline at 1-800-476-9708.
If someone has flu-like symptoms and believe they may have H1N1 flu, they should call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000.