States cope with H1N1 flu surges at hospitals
BY LINDY WASHBURN The (Hackensack N.J.) Record
Sunday, November 01, 2009
11/01/09 at 5:47 AM
HACKENSACK, N.J. — New Jersey health officials were holding off on declaring an H1N1 flu emergency Friday, despite a surge in patients exhibiting flu-like symptoms and emergency declarations in New York State and Philadelphia.
Philadelphia declared its public-health emergency Friday as emergency rooms struggled under a surge of patients. South Jersey hospitals also reported an increase in emergency patients with flu-like symptoms.
"The emergency departments are seeing an increase in patients, and most of them are pediatric patients," said Kerry McKean Kelly, of the New Jersey Hospital Association. "There is growing pressure on pediatric beds and pediatric ICU beds, but they aren't maxed out."
New York Gov. David Paterson declared a state of emergency in New York on Thursday to enable additional health workers, such as dentists and podiatrists, to vaccinate target groups for the swine flu, now widespread in all but two states.
"New Jersey has no plans to declare a state of emergency at this time," said Donna Leusner, a spokeswoman for the state Health Department. The state "is well-positioned to take any and all actions necessary to respond to H1N1."
Vaccine supplies are increasing, but are still insufficient to meet public demand, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at an afternoon news briefing Friday.
Swine flu has caused at least 19 more children's deaths — the largest one-week increase since the pandemic started in April, federal health officials said Friday. At least 114 children have died from swine flu complications since the spring.
The latest deaths include a 17-year-old Mount Holly, N.J., boy who died Oct. 24, after appearing healthy and attending high school all week. Two-thirds of the children who have died have underlying health conditions, Frieden said.
The proportion of children affected reverses the normal pattern for seasonal flu, which mainly strikes those over 65.
In North Jersey, "we are seeing the disease," said Dr. Wayne Yankus, a Midland Park pediatrician and physician for the Ridgewood schools. Many of the children with influenza do not have fever, which is usually a hallmark of the flu, he said.
Vomiting and diarrhea are more common with H1N1 flu than the seasonal flu, said Dr. Jeffrey Boscamp, chairman of pediatrics at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center.
"We're tracking it every day and wondering if it's about to hit," said Linda Stanton, administrative director of the children's hospital. So far, the volume of flu-like illness seen in the pediatric emergency room hasn't compared with the peak last spring. Flu-like illnesses have accounted for about 10 percent of children's visits, she said.
Most people experience H1N1 as a mild illness and don't require medical care other than bed rest. But anti-viral therapies are recommended for flu patients at high risk, including pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions.
Spot shortages of the pediatric liquid form of Tamiflu, an anti-viral medication, have been reported, and Frieden said he had ordered the release of the entire national strategic supply of it.