Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Diagnosing Swine Flu

A survey of 251 Doctors in General Practice reported on the ITN website this morning found that 90% of them are concerned that diagnosing swine flu over the phone could lead to other diseases, like meningitis, being missed.

It's a small sample, but the overwhelming nature of the response is enough to be statistically significant and to suggest to me that the fears described by the NHS Blog Doctor and referred to in my post below "How not to deal with swine flu-or anything else" are shared by a large number of doctors.

While the levels of suspected swine flu are above what normal NHS capacity can deal with, it may be regrettably necessary to keep the current special measures such as internet and telephone diagnosis in place, but this survey reinforces my view that we should return to normal methods of diagnosis as soon as practical when infection rates trend down.

In the survey, 87 per cent of family doctors questioned, answered yes when asked: "Does diagnosing swine flu over the phone mean other diseases may be missed?"

Of the 251 polled, 10% were unsure and just 3% said no.

The associated report highlights their concerns, one stating that they had seen a case of measles misdiagnosed as swine flu. Again, this echoes the concern of the NHS blog doctor: he gives details here of a case where a teenager with life-threatening meningitis was misdiagnosed with swine flu and had to invent a false medical history to get a hospital to look at her.


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