Hospital advises caution as flu cases increase
By Amelia Harper
Staff Writer, Rocky Mount Telegram
Due to a recent surge in the number of flu diagnoses, Nash UNC Health Care is urging the public to take flu prevention measures and limiting visitation to the hospital for people who have cold or flu-like symptoms.
This season’s first case of influenza was reported at Nash UNC Health Care in September and has since been increasing in numbers, said Connie Clark, manager of infection prevention at Nash UNC Health Care.
“We saw 56 positive flu cases in the entire month of December, and as of Jan. 6, 50 cases over the past seven days,” Clark said.
Clark said the hospital is advising caution when visiting patients.
“Because of the local increase in flu cases, we encourage the public to help prevent the spread of flu by taking proper precautions and by not visiting our patients if they have any flu or cold-like symptoms,” Clark said. “Fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose and body aches are all signs of flu and should be taken seriously.”
Dr. Anne Shriner, chief medical officer of Nash UNC Health Care, explained the hospital’s flu precautions plan and offered guidance on visiting the hospital.
“The presence of family and loved ones is so critical to the healing process of our patients that we will not restrict their ability to visit, but we want to educate visitors on the risks of visiting and on steps to prevent the spread of flu,” Shriner said. “Children, the elderly and patients in health care facilities are particularly vulnerable as they already have suppressed immune systems. We want to reduce their exposure to potential germs as much as possible, so we will aim to inform all visitors of the hospital on the risks that visiting can pose to themselves and their loved ones.”
When visitors come to the hospital, they will be educated by hospital staff on the risks of visiting and will be offered the option of sending a “Cheer Card” instead at no cost. Cheer Cards can be created and sent online at NashUNCHealthCare.org, or if preferred, visitors can use a physical Cheer Card that are offered at the front desk. Visitors also have the option to purchase a gift or floral arrangement from the Thoughts of You Gift Shop and have them delivered to a patient’s room.
The hospital also is offering advice to residents on ways to avoid the flu, which rapidly is spreading through the area.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicates that flu viruses mainly are spread from person-to-person through droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. Therefore, Clark offered the following tips to help avoid and stop the spread of flu.
- Know the signs of infection. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. It takes one to four days for flu symptoms to appear once the virus has entered the body. Anyone recovering from the flu should stay home at least 24 hours after their fever is gone and the use of fever-reducing drugs has been discontinued.
- Wash hands often and well. Use soap and warm water whenever possible. It is important to scrub for at least 20 seconds and to cover all areas of the hand, between fingers and around fingernails. If warm water and soap are not available, use an alcohol-based hand-sanitizing rub. Avoid touching your face, especially your nose, eyes and mouth.
- Clean common areas regularly. Wipe down frequently touched surfaces with a disinfectant since virus-filled droplets can live on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours.
- Practice a healthy lifestyle. During flu season, it becomes even more important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of water, get plenty of exercise and sleep and avoid tobacco to keep the immune system performing at its best.
- Get a flu vaccine. Unlike measles, flu viruses can be different every season. That is why it is so important to get a vaccine every year. It’s not too late to get this year’s flu vaccine. Even in years where the vaccine may be less effective than usual, it still is the best way to fight the flu and decrease the severity of flu symptoms.