We are still preparing for huge surges in volume. Most New York City hospitals have Pandemic Influenza Working Groups. In my own hospital we have developed a multi-phased response to our expected increase in visits which to date have not materialized.

  • We meet weekly to discuss both how to respond to influenza and how to prevent it in our staff and patients.

  • We are currently limiting visitation to our labor and delivery units as well as our neonatal ICU.

  • We have educational and informational posters up all over our facilities, recommending hand hygiene and flu-prevention measures.

  • We are vaccinating both our patients and our staff with both seasonal flu vaccine and H1N1 vaccine (when available).

  • We are routinely isolating and testing patients for influenza in the hospital (52 suspected, but 0 positive for influenza using PCR, which is a highly sensitive and specific test).

  • We are prepared.

I personally have also been very impressed by the fact that despite the publicity regarding the flu right now, including President Obama's declaration of an influenza emergency, it has not resulted in mass hysteria in New York City. Children are getting colds, and other viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are circulating, but our clinics and Emergency Departments are not inundated with unnecessary visits. Cool heads are prevailing, and that is good. Last May New Yorkers were panicking. Now that we have experience, we are not.

The rest of the country can learn from New York's experience with the H1N1 virus. Continue to use available and inexpensive preventive measures, such as hand washing, covering your cough, and staying at home if you're sick. Getting the flu stinks. Most have had it and, and most get better. It also has great potential to cause severe illness in high-risk individuals as we have seen year after year, and as I wrote last April.