Nash UNC Health Care Emphasizes Flu Precautions
ROCKY MOUNT, NC – Since the beginning of the year, the Emergency Department at Nash UNC Health Care has treated 591 patients for flu, according to Kim Langston, director of Nash UNC Health Care’s Emergency Department. Langston notes that the number of cases being seen daily is still on the rise, and that February is typically the month when the highest number of flu cases is reported.
“Those noticing sudden onset of fever, cough, chills, runny nose, sore throat, fatigue and body aches should contact their primary care provider,” says Langston. “For those needing emergency care, we have reconfigured our Emergency Department operations to best meet the needs of our patients and to expedite care as best as possible.”
The department has created a flu clinic in its adult waiting area to manage the surge in flu patients and to separate flu patients from non-flu patients, reducing the risk of cross-contamination. In addition to reducing the spread of the flu virus, this also allows hospital staff to more efficiently serve both groups. The flu clinic is staffed between 10am and 7pm, Sunday through Friday.
Crystal Hayden, Chief Nursing Officer, says the hospital is seeing a large volume of school-age children coming in with flu symptoms.
“Children with flu or flu-like symptoms are seen immediately, day or night, by pediatric providers in the Nash Pediatric Emergency Department,” says Hayden. “We are working with the local school systems to encourage parents to seek treatment for their children as soon as they see flu symptoms, and to keep sick children home from school to prevent further spread of the flu,” said Hayden.
All areas of the hospital continue to operate with visitor restrictions. Children under the age of 12 may not visit, and anyone feeling sick or having flu-like symptoms is asked not to visit.
“The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tells us that flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person-to person through droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk,” said Connie Clark, manager of Infection Prevention at Nash UNC Health Care. “Flu can also spread when people touch something – a doorknob, elevator button, light switch, countertop, restaurant menu, for instance – with flu viruses on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose.”
Clark offers the following tips to help avoid and stop the spread of flu.
- Wash hands often: Use soap and warm water and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Handwashing is best, but if not possible, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Keep in mind that virus-filled droplets from coughing and sneezing can live on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours. Wipe down frequently touched surfaces at home, work, and school with a disinfectant.
- Don’t touch your face, especially nose, eyes, and mouth.
- Know the signs of infection: Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. It takes 1-4 days for flu symptoms to appear once the virus has entered the body.
- Avoid contact with anyone who has the flu: Flu can be spread one day before any symptoms appear in the carrier and up until 5-7 days after the carrier becomes sick. Anyone recovering should stay home at least 24 hours after fever is gone and the use of fever-reducing drugs has been discontinued.
- Stay healthy: During flu season, it becomes even more important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet, get plenty of exercise and sleep, and avoid tobacco to keep the immune system performing at its best.
- Get your flu vaccine: Unlike measles, flu viruses can be different every season. That’s why it’s so important to get a vaccine every year, and it’s not too late for this year’s. Even in years where the vaccine may be less effective than usual, it is still the best way to fight flu.
“The CDC indicates that the flu vaccines have a good safety record and cannot give you the flu, but there may be some mild side effects such as soreness, redness, and/or swelling where the shot was given,” Clark added. “Discuss any concerns with your health care provider before taking the flu vaccine. The vaccine is also safe for pregnant women, and even reduces a baby’s chances of catching the flu by 50% for up to four months after birth.”