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      Valley hospital changes procedures in wake of swine flu

      Harlingen Medical Center has changed many procedures following the swine flu outbreak.

      Deborah Meeks with the Harlingen Medical Center has seen a big spike in numbers of patients in the emergency room.

      The emergency room department leader said many area residents are concerned they've contracted the swine flu.

      The demand has prompted the hospital to enact tighter restrictions and develop a new system that ensures walk-in patients are being treated with precaution.

      We TMre starting to screen patients when they come in, mask them if they have symptoms and make sure that we screen them according to CDC guidelines and also test them according to those guidelines, Meeks said.

      The registered nurse said the hospital has safety measures at hand to deal with the masses, including personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves.

      The Harlingen Medical Center has also reduced visiting hours to only two hours per day to ensure everyone TMs safety.

      But Meeks said the public shouldn TMt panic -- not all aches and pains are red flags of the swine flu.

      You have seasonal allergy TMs right now, she said. Also, we TMre the valley, lots of that going on as a regular cold and regular viruses."

      But the registered nurse warned that a combination of several symptoms and other factors could mean a visit to the doctor TMs office is necessary.

      If you present symptoms of a cold a severe cold with a fever and of course if you TMve been exposed to someone that you also know has been to Mexico, then you should be checked out, she said.