In a report last week, the Division of Public Health reported 16 flu deaths across the state, six of those within a one-week period. As a precaution, Sampson Regional Medical Center has imposed visitation restrictions until further notice. With few exceptions, the mandatory visitation guidelines are hospital-wide and restrict visitors under the age of 18 or adults of any age who have fever or flu-like symptoms.
“The hospital is just beginning to experience an uptick in flu-related visits to our Emergency Room and medical practices. Imposing temporary visitation restrictions is a proactive measure in anticipation of increased flu activity in Sampson County,” stated Amber Cava, VP of Strategy & Business Development.
Winter months bring on an increase in illnesses, many of which can have similar symptoms to the flu and can be just as harmful for the young and those with weakened immune systems. “As with every flu season, RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) can occur at the same time, often causing confusion due to their similar symptoms,” stated Wanda Holden, RN, Infection Control Coordinator for Sampson Regional Medical Center. “Flu symptoms tend to develop quickly and are usually more severe than the symptoms associated with a cold or RSV. However, while symptoms for both illnesses are similar, they can vary in severity based on age and pre-existing conditions,” Holden explained.
RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, but can also cause respiratory infections like bronchiolitis and pneumonia. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that can cause mild to severe illness. For young children, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems, both the flu and RSV could result in hospitalization.
“While you can protect yourself from the flu by receiving an annual flu shot, you can also help prevent both the flu and RSV by taking certain precautions,” informed Holden. To decrease chances of infection from the flu or RSV follow these simple tips: avoid close contact with those who are sick, wash your hands often, clean and disinfect surfaces on a regular basis, and if you do happen to get sick, stay home.
Common symptoms of the flu are:
Individuals with the following symptoms should not visit the hospital until they are free of symptoms for 24 hours: fever or feeling feverish, cough, sore throat, or muscle or body aches.
It's not too late to get the flu shot. “While we are seeing individuals with the flu present at the hospital and medical practices, individuals still have time to get the shot,” added Holden. Flu season can often last through the spring months, peaking between January and February. “In addition to getting the flu shot, respiratory hygiene and hand washing are the most important steps people can take to help prevent the spread of flu,” said Holden.
Providing the best quality of care in a safe environment means protecting patients. “This means managing their exposure to contagious illnesses, such as the flu,” stated Holden. As a result, the hospital is imposing special measures to protect its patients, staff, and visitors from spreading the flu.
All visitors are encouraged to perform good hand hygiene upon entering or exiting the facility or when coming and going from a patient’s room. Hygiene stations are located throughout the hospital, stocked with face masks, tissue, and hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer pumps are also located at the entry point of every patient room.
The hospital expects visitation restrictions to be in place through at least March but will reevaluate and extend depending on the volume of flu cases at that time.