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HHS, ED Docs Provide H1N1 Guidelines to Public

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, November 4, 2009

Guidelines to help the public determine whether or not their H1N1 symptoms warrant a trip to the emergency room were released today by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

The guidelines are a joint effort by ACEP and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and the Emergency Care Coordination Center, which are divisions of HHS.

"Emergency physicians are on the frontlines of this national emergency," said Angela Gardner, MD, president of the 28,000-member ACEP. "People are understandably concerned about contracting the H1N1 virus and confused about when to seek emergency care and when to stay home. That is why we developed a set of guidelines based on symptoms and the patient's overall state of health to help them make that decision."

People who go to the Web site are first asked, "Do you have a fever or feel feverish and have a cough and/or sore throat?" If the answer is "no," then emergency medical care is probably unwarranted.

If the answer is "yes," the guidelines offer a list of symptoms that indicate severe illness that does warrant a visit to the emergency department, such as difficulty breathing, inability to keep liquids down, and changes in behavior.

The guidelines list conditions—pregnancy, chronic heart disease, etc.—that might require a visit to the emergency department if accompanied by fever, cough, and/or sore throat.

"Ultimately, you are probably the best judge of whether to seek emergency care," Gardner says. "If you think you are having an emergency, come see us. We are specialists in diagnosing and treating all kinds of emergencies, including flu. Our doors are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year."


John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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