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145.6 million patients a year go to hospital ERs

Across the country, hospital emergency rooms are seeing a record number of patients — 145.6 million a year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data — gathered in 2016 and released this month — show that most people head to an ER because of an illness rather than an injury. Stomach or abdominal pain tops the list of reasons (affecting 12.5 million patients), followed by chest pain (7.6 million) and fever (5.5 million). Among injuries treated in ERs, the most common result from a fall (10.5 million) or a motor vehicle crash (3.7 million). Although the number of ER patients is growing — in 2016, up 8.7 million from the year before — fewer people seem to be turning to ERs for routine care. The number of people seeking treatment for what ER doctors determine to be nonurgent symptoms has actually dropped, from 5.5% to 4.3% of all ER patients. But, as the American College of Emergency Physicians noted in its review of the data, “nearly two-thirds of (ER) visits occur after business hours, when other doctors’ offices are closed.” The picture painted by CDC data also shows that, once people get to an ER, 39% are being seen in 15 minutes or less, and 72% in less than an hour. Although people of all ages seek care at ERs, about 19% of patients in 2016 (27.4 million) were 15 or younger and 16% (23.1 million) were 65 or older. The CDC data, culled from the agency’s 2016 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, included information from only ERs that are part of a hospital and did not include information from free-standing emergency departments or urgent-care centers.

— Linda Searing, special to The Washington Post

CDC reports at least 90 new measles cases

WASHINGTON — For the third week in a row, U.S. health officials have added dozens of new reports to the year’s list of confirmed measles cases, bringing the total to 555 — already the highest number in the past five years. If the outbreaks aren’t brought under control, public health experts worry that the cases in 2019 will hit a record nearly two decades after measles’s “elimination” in the United States.

The number of people sickened by the highly contagious, occasionally deadly disease increased by 90 during the second week of April, with 20 states now having reported cases in 2019. In 2000, health officials announced that they had rid the country of measles.

The states that have reported cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington. The total so far is the second-greatest number of cases reported since 2000.

New York City has had 285 cases, virtually all of them in Brooklyn, since the outbreak began in October. Of those, 229 were reported this year, accounting for more than one-third of the 555 cases that have been reported nationwide in 2019, as of April 11, according to figures updated Monday by the CDC.

In 2014, the United States reported a record 667 cases, including one large outbreak primarily among unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio that accounted for more than half of the cases.

Last week, New York City officials declared a public health emergency and ordered mandatory measles vaccinations to halt the outbreak concentrated among ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, putting in place the broadest vaccination order in the United States in nearly three decades.

The six current outbreaks, in California, New Jersey, New York and Washington states, are linked to travelers who brought measles back from other countries such as Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines, where large measles outbreaks are occurring, the CDC said.

— Lena H. Sun, The Washington Post