Muskogee Hospital Deals With Swine Flu Scare

Wednesday, April 29th 2009, 4:59 pm
By: News On 6

By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6

MUSKOGEE, OK -- Swine flu infections are spreading rapidly from coast to coast.

A 22-month-old boy died from swine flu in Texas on Wednesday morning, making him the first U.S. death since the outbreak began.

There are nearly 100 cases of swine flu in 11 U.S. states.

In Oklahoma, the Department of Health will determine whether a hospital worker is infected.

The News on Six spoke exclusively with the doctor who first treated the worker.

Dr. Doug Raymer knew an employee at Muskogee's VA Medical Center was returning from a Mexican vacation this week but says that was no reason to keep him from coming to work.

But when the worker started showing symptoms, he says he had only one option.

Raymer, an emergency room doctor for 15 years, knows even though the results are pending, the signs are troubling.

"The high risk group is the group I have to pay attention to," he said.

When the employee returned from Cozumel, Mexico, on Monday, there were already dozens of swine flu cases.

"On Monday I was asked, ‘Can he work?' And I said, ‘Sure, he can work, as long as he's not having any symptoms and he's doing fine.' No fear, no concern," Raymer said. "When he came into work on Tuesday, he was actually having some symptoms.

"Immediately we went into the precautionary mode that CDC recommends. We did everything according to our protocols."

Raymer treated him in a quarantined room, and his staff wore special masks. They performed two swab tests to send to the state Department of Health.

"I think like anybody would be, he was anxious," Raymer said. "And he was wondering why we were asking him to wear a mask and had to put him in an area to protect him and protect everybody. Protect him and protect us."

Raymer says the VA employee is at home on doctor's orders, resting up for a full week. He's been prescribed anti-viral medications. Even though this is a high-risk case, he says there's no cause for widespread fear.

"Just be about our business and live our lives," Raymer said. "We'll know more as the week goes on what this situation is really going to be like."

The Department of Health received the employee's test vials Tuesday. The official results will be released Thursday or Friday.

Raymer says if it is swine flu, the patient will likely stay at home, stay on medicine and let the virus run its course.