NC preparing for swine flu emergency

WAKE COUNTY Hospitals throughout the Triangle say the state of emergency doesn't change how they're treating H1N1, but it could if things get much worse.

If vaccines fail to keep the swine flu in check, there's a new weapon in the fight to stop it from spreading -a state of emergency declaration.

"It allows us to have a wider menu of options to address a particular problem," Wake County Medical Director Dr. Brent Myers said.

If Wake County EMS receives a distressing flu call, they say they will immediately send out an ambulance. But under a state of emergency, the playbook changes, allowing them to send help to the sickest patients first.

"People that sounded healthy over the phone might not get an ambulance; we can hold the ambulance for the sicker patients," Myers said.

Currently, EMS responds to every call. If the H1N1 outbreak reached 1918 flu pandemic proportions, a state of emergency also gives local hospitals more discretion with where they can treat the sick.

If they run out of bed space, patients would receive care under triage tents and if resources were dangerously low, who would receive care would come down to strict guidelines, a choice between healthy and severely sick patients.

"Predictive models to help you understand if I only have three ventilators left, who's most likely to survive," Myers said. "Again, that is the imagined worst case scenario."

A scenario, health officials say they believe the Triangle is uniquely prepared for. The chance of running out of antiviral medicines and bed space is highly unlikely.

"We have sufficient resources to treat everybody so far and we don't see anything on the horizon that's going to change that," Myers said.

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