Feeling sick? Wondering if it's the H1N1 flu or just a regular old go-away-don't-come-near-me, flu?
Face it, your doctor may not be able to squeeze you right in. But you may be able to figure it out using a Web-based self-assessment tool developed by researchers at Emory University in Atlanta. The tool is now available on several national Web sites, including flu.gov, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Microsoft's H1N1 Response Center.
The online test includes questions like, do you have a fever? Have you been short of breath? Do you have a pain or pressure in your chest that you didn't have before? Were you feeling better and now a fever or cough is returning?
The H1N1 flu, also widely known as the swine flu, is a fairly new influenza virus that has spread around the world. The CDC reports that it first appeared in the United States this past April. By June 11, the World Health Organization categorized it as a pandemic. Because its extremely contagious, hospitals and health care workers have been bracing for the H1N1 to hit hard this fall.
With concerns about the new flu running high, health care providers expect to get slammed with a mounting wave of people rushing in to find out if they have the H1N1 virus.
The online test, dubbed the Strategy for Off-Site Rapid Triage, is designed to help a lot of people figure out if they need to see their doctor or go to a hospital.
"This Web site is carefully designed to encourage those who are severely ill, and those at increased risk for serious illness, to contact their doctor, while reassuring large numbers of people with a mild illness that it is safe to recover at home," Arthur Kellermann, professor of emergency medicine and an associate dean at the Emory School of Medicine, said in a statement. "Hopefully, providing easy-to-understand information to the public will reduce the number of people who are needlessly exposed to H1N1 influenza in crowded clinic and ER waiting rooms, and allow America's doctors and nurses to focus their attention on those who need us most."