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Thursday, Feb 7, 2019

Ballad Health hospitals increase visitation restrictions due to escalating flu risk

Due to a surge in influenza cases, Ballad Health has increased visitation restrictions at all their hospitals this week. Hospitals are asking the following people to refrain from visiting patients at this time:

  • Anyone who has flu-like symptoms, such as cough, sore throat, fever, chills, runny nose, body aches, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Anyone younger than 18
  • Any groups of more than two adults per patient

“To keep our patients and our community safe, we’re trying to limit the number of visitors who come into the hospital,” said Jamie Swift, director of infection prevention at Ballad Health. “Since Oct. 1, we’ve seen 944 cases of flu this season, but 475 of those were reported over the last week and a half. So as a precaution, we’ve implemented our enhanced visitation restrictions.”

The dominant flu strain being seen here and across the country is Influenza A, H1N1, which generally results in a milder flu season. This year’s vaccine seems to be a good match to the circulating strain, resulting in fewer ED visits and hospitalizations overall as compared to last flu season.

“However, the H1N1 strain can cause serious illness in infants and children as well as the elderly,” Swift said. “To date nationally, there have been 24 pediatric flu-related deaths this flu season. Our visitation restrictions not only limit any potential exposure from the community to our patients and team members, but also limit exposure to those most vulnerable to H1N1 – people under the age of 18 – within our facilities.”

Rather than visit in person, people are encouraged to call the hospital to check on a patient’s condition. It’s also important to remember that people can spread the flu to others for a full a day before they start showing symptoms.

Community members play an important role in preventing the spread of flu. Because it is spread via droplets from coughing, sneezing or talking, one of the most important ways to prevent illness is to wash your hands frequently. It is also important to always practice respiratory etiquette – covering your cough and sneeze to prevent the spread of droplets to others.

Refraining from touching the eyes, nose and mouth also helps prevent the spread of flu. In addition, it is not too late to receive a flu vaccination, which can decrease symptoms and reduce the risk of cases becoming more serious.

A flu vaccination is recommended for everyone older than 6 months, especially pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone with a weakened immune system.