The flu's impact: REMSA makes changes

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RENO, Nev., (KOLO) The calls come in every day at REMSA's dispatch center. On the other end, a person in need of emergency medical treatment or transport. In recent days it's been even busier than normal.

"This week REMSA experienced an all-time high for transport within Washoe County, transporting almost 200 patients, which is 33 percent higher than we average every day," says Adam Heinz, REMSA's Director of Communications.

Those calls include all sorts of accidents and medical emergencies, but a significant number--51 in the past 8 days--are related to the flu.

"We are seeing more patients complaining of respiratory distress or respiratory illness. That's up 15 percent from last year."

So in response, they've activated a set of protocols. The dispatcher has always gathered basic information, so the paramedics arrive prepared, but now--as the ambulance is enroute--they will be asking a new set of questions.

"This screening looks to check to see if patients have a fever or are warm to touch, runny nose, sore throat, cough."

And if that screening indicates the flu, the paramedics will be in special gear.
Heinz says, "It may be a little intimidating to arrive on scene and see a paramedic with gloves, gown, mask. But it's necessary to keep our responders healthy which is a critical infrastructure of the county and to minimize any cross contamination to other patients they may see later in the day.."

Of course, everyone involved hopes it doesn't get this far. Like every other health agency, REMSA is urging everyone to get a flu shot, practice common sense hygiene and contact your doctor or an urgent care center if you do get sick.

If things get serious, you or someone you're caring for is having trouble breathing, maintaining consciousness or has chest pain, call 9-1-1.

Otherwise leave the ambulances and emergency room to those who really need it.