The Washington Times-Herald

January 11, 2013

Influenza A widespread, peaking early

Hospitals restricting visitors

By Andrea McCann
Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control is touting this winter as one of the worst for influenza cases in several years, with a growing number of cases in at least 41 states.

In Daviess County, there’s been a growing number of flu cases treated at Daviess Community Hospital since late December, according to DCH marketing manager Mary Smith.

“From Dec. 28 to Jan. 8, we had 17 positive cases treated at the hospital,” she said. “Patients range in age from 8 months to 94 years and are both male and female.”

Daviess County Health Nurse Kathy Sullender said flu cases are widespread throughout the county, with the elderly being particularly hard hit. She said not everyone with symptoms has been tested, but those who have all had Influenza A.

The increase in flu cases is a concern for patients at the hospital, and DCH CEO David Bixler said, effective immediately, DCH is discouraging people from coming to the hospital unless they are coming to receive treatment.

“We ask that patient family and friends delay visiting patients unless absolutely necessary,” he said in a press release. “If you do visit, please wear a mask as needed and use hand sanitizer upon entry to the hospital and a patient room.”

In addition, the free blood sugar and blood pressure screening event set for Wednesday in the hospital lobby has been cancelled.

“We want to do everything we can to protect our patients,” Bixler said..”Our goals are to help people in our community recover from the flu and to stop the flu from spreading.”

Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes also is restricting visitor guidelines to protect patients and staff. Only two visitors per patient will be allowed; anyone 18 and younger or with a respiratory illness is discouraged from visiting the hospital, including common areas; and anyone with flu-like symptoms or who’s been exposed to someone with flu-like symptoms is asked not to visit the hospital.

In addition, masks, hand sanitizer and trash cans will be available at entry and registration areas, and anyone entering or exiting a patient room must clean his or her hands. Public reading materials have been removed from waiting areas, as well, in an attempt to reduce transmission of flu germs.

“Taking steps to prevent infections saves lives and is the responsible thing to do in the interest of our community,” said Chief Nursing Officer Karen Haak. “These policies are designed to protect those at greatest risk during the flu season. The time frame of these visitation restrictions is uncertain at this point,and will be evaluated on a daily basis.”

The American Red Cross recommends a flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older, and they say it’s not too late to get vaccinated. Vaccines are still available in DCH-owned clinics: DCH Medical Clinic and Grand Avenue Pediatrics in Washington, North Daviess Clinic in Odon, and the Daviess-Martin Clinic in Loogootee.

In Knox County, vaccines are available for walk-in patients at Good Samaritan Hospital Community Health Services, located at Seventh and Dubois streets. They’re offered 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. No appointment is necessary for flu or pneumonia vaccines. Nurses also will administer vaccines to groups of 10 or more at their places of employment. For more information, call 885-8753.

“We can’t emphasize enough how important it is Ñ and how easy it is Ñ to provide your family with as much protection as possible by getting vaccinated against the flu,” said Alison Martin, executive director of the American Lung Association in Indiana. “Immunization is especially important for those at higher risk Ð young children, pregnant women, those who are 50 years of age or older, people with certain chronic medical conditions including asthma, COPD and heart disease and healthcare workers and caregivers who are in close contact with those at high risk.”

Sullender said she’s already given 500 flu vaccines in the past couple weeks Ð the same amount she generally gives throughout the entire flu season.

However, she has more on order and isn’t concerned about running out.

“The state reported this morning that we’re probably seeing the peak right now,” she said, explaining the disease is expected to run its course earlier than usual this year.

Besides vaccination, other recommendations the Red Cross has for preventing spread of the disease include:

* Cover nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and the throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into the crook of the elbow. Don’t use hands.

* Wash hands often. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

* Avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth.

* Avoid contact with sick people.

* Stay home if sick to avoid infecting others.

Common signs of influenza include high fever, severe body aches, headache, being extremely tired, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, vomiting and/or diarrhea. A doctor should be contacted immediately if the sick person develops fast breathing, trouble breathing, bluish skin color, an adult with pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, confusion or sudden dizziness, not drinking enough fluids, inability to eat, severe or persistent vomiting, flu-like symptoms that improve but then reappear with fever and a worse cough, not waking up, a child who’s so irritable it doesn’t want to be held or is not interacting, a child with a rash, no tears when crying or significantly fewer wet diapers than normal in children.

Sullender said high fevers, cough and aches have been common with this winter’s flu, and the fever and cough are wearing people down.

If someone in the household comes down with the flu, the Red Cross suggests designating one person Ð who’s not at high risk for infection Ð as the caregiver and having remaining household members avoid contact to prevent spreading the disease to the whole family. They also recommend a designated sick room and bathroom if possible. Each person should have his or her own personal items, such as drinking glass, wash cloth and towel and avoid sharing.

Other tips include:

* Make sure the sick person stays home and rests until 24 hours after fever is gone.

* Supply the sick room with tissues, a trash can lined with plastic trash bag, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, a cooler or pitcher with ice, drinks, thermometer, a cup with straw or a squeeze bottle for drinking, a humidifier if possible, and a face mask.

* Give plenty of fluids throughout the illness.

* Treat fever and cough with over-the-counter medicines. (Children should never be given aspirin.)

* Disinfect doorknobs, switches, handles, computers, phones, bedside tables, bathroom sinks, toilets, counters, toys, and other commonly touched surfaces.

* Wash dishes using very hot water.

* Use very hot water and detergent to wash clothes, dry on a hot setting, and wash hands after handling dirty laundry.

* Wear disposable gloves when in contact with body fluids.

* If the sick person is pregnant, has asthma or another medical condition that puts her or him at higher risk for complications, they may need to be examined by a doctor and potentially need an antiviral medication.