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Flu prompts visitor restrictions at Nash hospital

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Nash UNC Health Care has implemented its influenza plan due to a recent surge in the number of flu cases diagnosed at the hospital. The plan includes visitor restrictions, which aim to help prevent the spread of flu to patients, visitors and staff.

This season’s first case of influenza was reported at Nash UNC Health Care on Oct. 25. November brought another 10 cases, with 40 more in December. As of Jan. 3, a total of 62 cases have been diagnosed and treated at the hospital, according to Connie Clark, manager of infection prevention at Nash UNC Health Care.

“Because of the increase in flu cases, we are asking the public to help stop the spread of flu by not visiting our patients if they have any symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat and body aches,” Clark said. “Children under the age of 12 are strongly encouraged not to visit. These restrictions are common practice during flu season and are intended to help protect visitors, children, patients and staff from further spread of flu. Because our patients already have suppressed immune systems, we want to reduce the exposure to additional germs as much as possible.”

Flu Alert visitor restriction signs are posted in all entryways to the hospital, and visitors with children will be educated by hospital staff on the risks of visiting. Personal protection stations with masks, hand sanitizer and tissues are positioned in high-traffic areas throughout the hospital. Hospital staff and the infection prevention department are available to answer any questions about visitation or other questions related to the flu.

Clark notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that flu viruses are mainly spread from person-to-person through droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. Therefore, Clark offers the following tips to help avoid and stop the spread of flu.

• Wash hands often and well: Use soap and warm water whenever possible. It’s 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.

• 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 flu should stay home at least 24 hours after fever is gone and the use of fever-reducing drugs has been discontinued.

• Stay healthy: 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 your flu vaccine: Flu viruses can be different every season. That’s why it’s so important to get a vaccine every year, and it’s not too late for this year’s. Even in years where the vaccine may be less effective than usual, it is still the best way to fight and decrease the severity of flu.

In lieu of visiting, people may choose to send their loved one a “Cheer Card,” a new service offered by Nash UNC Health Care. Anyone can visit www.nashunchealthcare.org/cheercards to create a greeting card for a loved one in the hospital. Users can choose to have the card emailed directly to the patient, or for the card to be printed and delivered by Nash UNC’s office of hospitality services and volunteers during normal business hours. There is no cost to send a cheer card.

People may also call the Thoughts of You Gift Shop at 252-962-8139 to purchase a gift or floral arrangement to be delivered to a patient’s room.

“We want to work with our patients’ loved ones to help relay messages or share their greetings with the patients,” said Clark. “We thank the public for their cooperation in helping us protect our patients, staff and visitors.”