The number of people showing up at health clinics is steadily increasing as more and more cases of swine flu are reported, but most of the people with symptoms don't have the flu. Laurie Johnson reports.
Inside an HEB grocery store probably isn't the first place you think of to look for testing and flu treatment. But more than a dozen stores in the Houston area house a RediClinic, where anyone can walk in without an appointment and find out if that sore throat and fever really is H1N1, the name the CDC is now using to identify the virus, or if it's just a standard cold. Nurse Practitioner Terri Thomas says most of the people showing up really are sick. But that doesn't mean it's the flu.
"Over the past week or so I have noticed an increase in traffic. Some with some of the symptoms of fever, cough and sore throat, but some people just with ordinary colds and they're just afraid of what's going out there and want us to check them. And we're here to let them know and do the test and help them out as much as we can."
Thomas says she doesn't think people are panicking. In her experience if people are concerned about their health, they need someone to validate that. Overall, the RediClinic locations have seen a 30 percent increase in patient visits this week. The company's Lori Knowles says flu is already one of the primary conditions they treat in their clinics
"In this case though, we have ramped up what we are able to do. So we do follow Texas state specimen collection guidelines so we are able to swab and send specimens off to the state for patients that present with flu-like symptoms."
And if the flu is suspected, whether swine flu or not, the patient is sent home with a mask and detailed instructions on how to help stop the spread of the virus.
"We've had to increase supplies, obviously, we have had to very quickly put an education process in place for all of our employees and our nurse practitioners and our physician assistants. So beginning on Monday, we implemented every morning conference calls with all of our staff. They last about 30 minutes and they include everything from clinical updates coming from the state or the CDC to how we are handling things here."
By this time, you've no doubt heard the instructions before, but they bear repeating. Wash your hands frequently and well, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and if you do get sick stay home.
Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
For more information on RediClinics, visit the HEB RediClinic web site