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Doctors: Even in pandemic, patients should seek care for other emergencies

Hospitals are seeing a 40% drop in emergency visits, in part because patients with serious conditions other than COVID-19 are reluctant to seek care.

Patients without COVID-19 symptoms, yet still in need of medical care, are staying away from emergency departments: Hospitals across the country are seeing a 40% drop in emergency visits, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians.

But avoiding the hospital -- whether from fear of becoming infected with the coronavirus or a desire to save medical resources for the pandemic -- is risky, said Robert Harrington, MD, professor and chair of medicine at Stanford Medicine and president of the American Heart Association.

As he noted in an interview with ABC News Prime, as many as 30% to 50% of patients experiencing heart attacks and strokes are not seeing a doctor about their symptoms. "Clearly that's problematic because that means people are not getting the care they need," he said.

"If you are somebody who is at risk of things like heart attack -- you have hypertension, you're a smoker, you're an older individual, you've had diabetes -- you should really think about seeking emergency medical care for things like chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness that's not remitting over a short period of time," he said.

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