The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Annual Report: Health & Public Service

March 22, 2010

Madison County responds to H1N1 threat

Public health officials call flu strain pandemic

ANDERSON, Ind. — Saint John’s Medical Center’s emergency room stayed busier than usual during the last quarter of 2009, thanks to a new strain of the flu virus that had public health officials crying pandemic.

Saint John’s Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Gary Brazel said the emergency department saw increased volumes for a period of about four to six weeks when dealing with 2009’s outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus, also called swine flu because the first cases were reported in pigs.

Brazel said, “This was the biggest sustained influx” that he can remember. “We’ve had nothing that’s been this sustained.”

During the height of the outbreak, Saint John’s emergency room numbers increased by 50 percent, Brazel said, most attributed to flu but with few of those patients needing hospitalization.

In October and November, Saint John’s had 40 patients admitted for flu, only one of which required admittance to the hospital’s critical care unit, Brazel said.

Charlie Williams, a doctor association with Community Hospital Anderson, said he had treated many patients diagnosed with H1N1, some who were hospitalized.

“Across the board it was maybe a bit more severe than the typical seasonal flu,” Williams said. “It’s not like it was one peak; we’ve had intermittent mini-exacerbations.”

Although the virus was the talk of public health officials throughout 2009’s flu season, the threat seems to have died down now. Williams said he hasn’t treated anyone for H1N1 since December, but that people should be wary of the disease reappearing.

“I don’t think it’s over,” he said. “We might still have some outbreak. That virus mutates like crazy. It has given us all a big scare and rightfully so because it really made some people very sick, but I don’t think that we should take it out of the back of our minds.”

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Annual Report: Health & Public Service
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