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Has Swine Flu Peaked In Boston? Some Hospitals Say Yes

Good news on the swine flu front: Some local hospitals say emergency room visits by people with flu-like symptoms seem to have plateaued, an indication that the H1N1 virus may have reached its peak in Boston.

Because there's so much that public health officials don't know about swine flu, they haven't been sure when the virus would be most widespread. In the past few weeks, hospitals have been reporting increasing percentages of ER visits related to H1N1 and they've wondered how high those numbers would go.

Dr. Alasdair Conn, chief of emergency services at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that last week he was particularly concerned.

WBUR Topics: H1N1 Swine Flu
WBUR Topics: H1N1 Swine Flu

"For one day, we hit 10 percent and I thought, 'Oh goodness, we're going to now increase pretty dramatically,' " Conn recalled. "Fortunately that has not occurred."

Instead, visits to Mass General's ER by people who seem to have swine flu are holding steady at about 10 percent, which could be a sign that H1N1 is tapering down, he said.

In raw numbers, about 25 patients a day are coming to Mass General's ER with flu-like symptoms, and typically only a few of those patients are hospitalized, he said. The rest are treated and discharged.

On Saturday, for example, Mass General's ER treated 28 people for flu-like symptoms and hospitalized one of them. On Sunday, the ER treated 30 people, two of whom were hospitalized.

Newton-Wellesley Hospital is also experiencing a plateau in numbers of people coming to its emergency department with flu-like symptoms, according to hospital officials there.

Conn, of Mass General, added that the decrease in flu patients coming to some emergency rooms could also signal that the general public is following this public health advice: before going to an ER with a suspected case of swine flu, first contact your primary care doctor, who will probably advise that people with mild flu cases should simply stay home, drink fluids and rest.

This program aired on November 10, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

Sacha Pfeiffer Twitter Host, All Things Considered
Sacha Pfeiffer was formerly the host of WBUR's All Things Considered.

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