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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Some clinics and hospital emergency rooms are requiring patients who may have the flu to wear masks.
Emergency rooms at all Intermountain Health Care hospitals in the Salt Lake Valley, the University of Utah Hospital and St. Mark's Hospital are requiring the masks to protect other patients.
IHC's InstaCare clinics and all IHC physicians also have adopted the mask rule.
St. Mark's is considering designating one of its hospital wings for flu patients only to keep cross-contamination from "droplet contact" to a minimum.
Emergency rooms, clinics and doctors offices are full of patients complaining of flu symptoms, but not all the facilities take cultures to determine the cause.
The Student Health Services clinic at the University of Utah reports all suspected flu cases to the state Department of Health but doesn't take cultures, said registered nurse Cindy Powell. "There are so many different viral things that can mimic" the flu, she says.
"In our neck of the woods it tends to be a cost issue," said Dr. Brian Zehnder, medical director of the Magna Center for Family Medicine, who rarely takes cultures.
To put someone on a five-day supply of anti-flu medicine such as Amantadine costs $15, while a culture costs at least twice that, he says.
"If people have symptoms of the flu, most doctors will just say, 'It's the flu season; let's just give you the Amantadine,' " said Zehnder. About 15 to 20 percent of the cases he's seeing now are flu-related.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)