City Declares Health Emergency Over H1N1

Here's the press release:

Friday, October 30, 2009 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE



Enables steps to be taken to alleviate burden on emergency rooms caused by H1N1


Philadelphia, October 30 – Today the City of Philadelphia issued an official declaration of a public health emergency, an administrative action which will enable hospitals to take steps to alleviate the burden on emergency rooms caused by an increase in the number of patients requiring care. The declaration was issued by Mayor Michael A. Nutter, acting upon the recommendation of Health Commissioner Dr. Donald Schwarz, working in close conjunction with the city’s hospitals that have experienced substantial increases in the number of patient visits in light of the H1N1 Influenza pandemic.

Dr. Schwarz delivered the following message to Philadelphians: “I cannot stress this enough – if you have mild flu symptoms please do not go to the emergency room. Emergency rooms are for the very sick. If medical staff and hospital staff have to deal with non-emergency cases, this diverts resources away from where they are desperately needed.”

According the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health, city hospitals are experiencing an approximate 25% increase in the number of emergency room visits for this time of year. The number of emergency room visits exceeds levels recorded in any previous flu season.

The declaration of a public health emergency is an administrative action that will enable Philadelphia hospitals to meet the growing demand for services by utilizing alternative spaces and volunteers. It will also permit the transfer of patients between facilities and waive bed limits and length of stay requirements. Hospitals have seen an increase in patient admissions from emergency rooms, and a doubling of the number of patients requiring critical care.

“Infection control experts continue to tell us that H1N1 remains for the most part a typical flu,” said Kenneth J. Braithwaite, II, regional executive for the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council of HAP. “But H1N1 does spread rapidly from one person to another, so the number of people getting the flu is increasing. The federal announcement of a national emergency last weekend allowed hospitals to set up alternate spaces to treat people with influenza like illnesses.”

“Given the heightened awareness generated by the H1N1 pandemic it is especially important that we are able to provide accurate information to patients, treat those who need treatment on a timely basis, and ensure that our hospitals and clinics are functioning efficiently with adequate personnel,” said Dr. Donald Schwarz.

The symptoms of the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus are similar to those that occur with seasonal flu strains seen each year.

The symptoms include:

Fever greater than 100 degrees
Body aches
Sore throat
Respiratory congestion
In some cases, diarrhea and vomiting

To prevent the spread of flu:

Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

Certain people with the flu are more likely to have problems or complications from the flu, and should see their doctor as soon as possible after they begin to feel ill. Pregnant women, people with asthma, diabetes, lung problems, heart problems, blood disorders, cancer, or conditions that can suppress the immune system are at risk for pneumonia and other complications when they get the flu, and they should be treated with antiviral drugs like oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza).

For the latest swine flu information, visit the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s website at