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Kids’ hospital expands emergency area, restricts visitations

So many children are coming to CHEO with flu-like symptoms that thehospital has expanded its emergency department, redeployed staff,implemented restrictions on visitors and generally stopped testing forthe H1N1 virus.

So many children are coming to CHEO with flu-like symptoms that the hospital has expanded its emergency department, redeployed staff, implemented restrictions on visitors and generally stopped testing for the H1N1 virus.

“We’re at the point now where if a child comes to the hospital with influenza-like symptoms, we can say that they have H1N1,” said Dr. Lindy Samson, head of infectious diseases and pandemic planning at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. “There is not a strain of seasonal influenza circulating in Ottawa at this time. If it looks like influenza, it is H1N1.”

On Monday, CHEO’s emergency room was packed with 320 patients — double the seasonal average. Two-thirds of those patients reported flu-like symptoms.

As of yesterday morning, 16 children were hospitalized with flu symptoms, nine with confirmed H1N1 cases. The others were awaiting test results.

Over the previous week, emergency room activity at the children’s hospital was 49 per cent higher compared to this time last year.

Samson said a fair number of those cases could have stayed at home or been treated by a family physician.

It is only if people have difficulty breathing, become very lethargic and sleepy, or become dehydrated from severe vomiting and diarrhea, that they should seek medical attention.

To deal with the increased traffic at CHEO, a second emergency area has been set up for children with fever, cough and flu symptoms.

Some clinical areas of the hospital will be scaled back to essential services as of tomorrow in order to provide extra emergency area.

Only non-essential treatment will be deferred until the level of H1N1 activity subsides.

In order to limit the spread of H1N1 within the hospital, only parents and guardians are allowed to visit patients.

Thomas Hayes, director for occupational health and emergency preparedness at the Ottawa Hospital said patients older than 16 should consider going to one of the other hospitals if they develop flu symptoms.

“That will really help us ease the pressure on CHEO,” he said.

 
 
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