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CDC: Decline Noted in ED Visits During Early Pandemic Period

42 percent decrease found in total number of U.S. ED visits; decreases largest for those ≤17 years, females

FRIDAY, June 5, 2020 (HealthDay News) — During the early pandemic era, there was a decrease in emergency department visits in the United States, according to research published in the June 3 early-release issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Kathleen P. Hartnett, Ph.D., from the CDC COVID-19 Response Team, and colleagues compared the volume of emergency department visits during four weeks early in the pandemic (March 29 to April 25, 2020) to that during a comparison period (March 31 to April 27, 2019).

The researchers found that the total number of U.S. emergency department visits was 42 percent lower in the early pandemic period than during the comparison period a year earlier; the largest declines were seen in visits for persons aged ≤14 years, females, and in the Northeast region. The largest declines were seen in visits for abdominal pain and other digestive or abdomen signs and symptoms, musculoskeletal pain excluding low back pain, essential hypertension, nausea and vomiting, other specified upper respiratory infections, sprains and strains, and superficial injuries. Visits for acute myocardial infarction also decreased although they were not in the top 20 declining diagnoses.

“Wider access is needed to health messages that reinforce the importance of immediately seeking care for serious conditions for which emergency department visits cannot be avoided, such as symptoms of myocardial infarction,” the authors write. “For conditions that do not require immediate care or in-person treatment, health care systems should continue to expand the use of virtual visits during the pandemic.”

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