LIMA — With winter in full swing, physicians and health personnel are urging residents to take every precaution possible to stop the spread of viruses.
Jeannetta Francy, epidemiologist with the Allen County Health Department, listed some startling statistics regarding the flu.
“In Allen County we have seen an increase in flu cases. From October 1, 2017 until now, we have seen in Allen County 41 influenza-associated hospitalizations. Compared to this time last year, we had 16 influenza-associated hospitalizations. So we have a huge increase,” said Francy.
Flu is only reported to health departments when it results in a hospitalization. If someone visits their doctor and they’re not hospitalized, the health department does not get that report.
Grand Lake Health System in St. Marys started to restrict visitors Thursday to limit the spread of respiratory infections as well as precautionary measures to limit seasonal flu.
These limitations include not permitting children under the age of 14 in the hospital for visitation purposes or anyone who exhibits flu or cold symptoms. The hospital expects the limitations to last through March.
“The action of restricting visitors exhibiting respiratory symptoms, including a fever, coughing and sneezing and children under the age of 14, is a precautionary measure,” said Kristi Koch, R.N., Infection Prevention Specialist. “Flu season has started and hospitals want to ensure they can keep unnecessary contamination away from patients whose immune systems are compromised. It is also important to help keep nurses and other patient care employees healthy so that they can take care of the patients.”
Lima Memorial Health System has no visitor restrictions in place, but they do urge people to take necessary precautions.
“If someone is really sick they should not come to the hospital and infect other people. It is not a general thing that you can’t come to the hospital, but if you’re coughing and can’t breathe, then maybe you shouldn’t be visiting,” said Dr. Balusu, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer at Lima Memorial Health System. “This year the CDC is saying it’s [flu] going to be pretty bad. We have seen our share here at Lima Memorial.”
Mercy Health-St. Rita’s does not have restrictions either.
“As far as visitor restrictions, we do not have direct restrictions at this time,” said Cory Unverferth, manager of infection prevention at Mercy Health-St. Rita’s. “We have seen some hospitalized influenza cases.”
Getting the flu shot is important to stave off the flu.
“The flu shot is the number one way to protect yourself,” said Francy.
Flu shots can be obtained at the health department, physician offices and some pharmacies.
Respiratory etiquette should be observed. Cough into your sleeve, wash your hands with soap and water, clean all high-touch surfaces daily and avoid touching your face. Viruses that may be on your hands are easily transmitted via mucus membranes.
“If you’re sick, stay home,” said Francy.
Reach Merri Hanjora at 567-242-0511.