N.Y. Pediatrician Deals With Flood Of Flu Calls
JACKI LYDEN, host:
Now to the latest from the swine flu front. The World Health Organization began shipping out antiviral medications and medical supplies today to developing countries so they'll be ready if the new H1N1 virus hits.
So far, it's been identified in more than a dozen nations. In this country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that schools that close stay closed for up to 14 days instead of just seven.
Already, at least 400 American schools are shut down, stranding almost a quarter-million American kids. That means a flood of visits to doctors' offices, especially in New York, where there have been 62 confirmed cases, more than any other U.S. city.
Dr. RAMON MURPHY (Founder, Uptown Pediatrics; Co-director, Global Health Center, Mount Sinai Hospital): I think everyone is in the same boat that we are. I think everyone is seeing lots of kids and lots of teenagers and (unintelligible) parents, and you just do what you have to do. And so far, thank God, it has not been a serious illness.
LYDEN: That's Dr. Ramon Murphy, the head of Uptown Pediatrics in Manhattan. He's also a public health specialist, and he reminded us that most cases of H1N1 in the United States have been pretty mild. We reached Dr. Murphy by cell phone last night, just as he left his office and was making his way across Central Park.
Dr. MURPHY: It was a busy day. There's five doctors, and we saw approximately 150 patients altogether, of which at least 60 percent or 70 percent were sick, and a significant portion of the families were worried about possible H1N1.
LYDEN: Did you see anything that you would think of as symptoms of H1N1 swine flu?
Dr. MURPHY: Oh, I mean, the symptoms are varied, and the problem that we have is that you can screen for Influenza A and B with a rapid screening test, and the test, it's fairly accurate. It's not 100 percent. Maybe it's 70 or 80 percent accurate. But once you come up with an Influenza A, you don't know if it's either of the old Influenza As that were around this winter or if it's the new Influenza A, previously known as swine flu. And neither the Board of Health nor Mount Sinai, which is the hospital that I send my laboratory tests to, will test for swine flu unless the patient is in the intensive care unit or critically ill because of resource issues.
Dr. MURPHY: So, many of the cases go ill-defined. I saw a young lady who's 16, who had chills and fever, went to the Sinai emergency room this morning and was told they couldn't test her. She had 104 fever, runny nose, cough, chills, fever, muscle aches, and then I saw her in the office late this afternoon, and she tested positive for Influenza A. She lives right next door to St. Francis Prep out in Queens and has friends who go to the school.
LYDEN: And that, of course, is a school where flu cases were suspected earlier in the week.
Dr. MURPHY: Suspected and confirmed. So, we called the Board of Health, and the Board of Health said that because she did not have a pneumonia or was critically ill, we did not need to test her further.
So, then I was left to decide how best to treat her and her family, and I treated her as a suspect case though certainly not as a confirmed case.
LYDEN: Do you feel like you have enough resources?
Dr. MURPHY: Well, again, today, of all the cases we saw, there was - let's see, I know of one case, this case that was positive. Many of the other cases that were mildly ill we just didn't test because we didn't want to get into that conundrum of to treat or not to treat with a mildly ill person.
So, we did not test the mildly ill or the mildly symptomatic. But in a sick child who's not critically ill but still sick, I think many of us in practice will opt towards the possibility of treating, even though we're not sure.
LYDEN: Dr. Ramon Murphy is a pediatrician in New York City, and we thank you very much for joining us.
Dr. MURPHY: Take care and have a great weekend.
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