Question: What happens if someone comes into the emergency room with seasonal or swine flu symptoms?
Answer: I think the first thing you need to understand when you come to the emergency department is that regardless of your symptoms, regardless of your complaint, you're going to be met at a desk and provide a brief history to usually the nurse at that desk. And based upon that complaint, you're going to be triaged, which is you're going to be sorted as far as your priority to be seen. This is important because when you come in with any condition you may not be immediately seen if there is someone else who arrived either at the same time as you or shortly before you who, for example, was critically injured in a car accident or is having a heart attack.
So, when you get to the emergency department, tell the reception, the triage nurse your complaint and they will either bring you back or depending upon availability, you may have to wait a short period of time.
If you do have to wait a short period of time, one thing I would like to explain is the use of masks. I don't want people to either be offended or to be afraid of using these masks. They're there for your protection and they're there for the protection of everyone else sitting in the waiting room around you. It's a means of making sure that when you cough or sneeze, the droplets that spread the flu, if that's in fact what you have, aren't spread around to everyone else sitting near you.
Likewise, if you happen to be in the emergency department for another reason and you see a patient with a mask on, you shouldn't be afraid, you shouldn't point or say anything bad about that person. The way I would look at it is, you should actually be grateful that they are taking the time and the effort to protect you and your family.
Once you have a room available in the emergency department, you'll be brought back. You'll provide the history and then they'll start figuring out what's going on -- whether it is influenza, whether it's something else, whether the influenza has complications, whether you have dehydration associated with it -- and based upon that they will make several decisions: The first decision is -- are you well enough to go home or do you need to be admitted to the hospital? And, if you are well enough to go home, do you need any special medications to go home with?