Allen County public health officials are recommending temporary visitation restrictions for area hospitals, healthcare facilities and nursing homes in response to recent increased flu activity.
Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan is advising healthcare facilities impose the following restrictions to help protect patients, visitors and staff:
– Anyone with a cold or flu-like symptoms (such as fever, cough or muscle aches) coming into a healthcare facility seeking treatment should wear a mask while in public areas including waiting rooms.
– No visitors under the age of 18 and no visitors of any age with flu-like symptoms should be allowed to visit patients.
– Visitors should be limited to two essential adults (at least 18-years-old) per patient – essential adults could include designated family members, spouse/domestic partner or spiritual counselors.
– Anyone not allergic to the flu vaccine should be vaccinated.
These recommendations were prompted by the continued uptick in influenza cases locally, Dr. McMahan said. The more common strain of the virus now being reported is a version of influenza A (H3N2). The strain can be especially problematic for those at high risk for complications, including the very young, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions such as asthma or heart problems.
The visitor guidelines are similar to those implemented in previous years, and healthcare facilities may implement stricter restrictions in certain areas as needed. Visitors should call the hospital, healthcare facility or nursing home before arriving if they have any questions about restrictions.
While the community is experiencing widespread influenza transmission, it’s important not to unintentionally expose patients in hospitals, nursing homes or any other confined setting. Influenza can spread to others during the incubation period – the time after a person has been exposed and the virus is actively replicating in their body but no symptoms are present. This is often how the flu can spread so quickly in a community and why there is cause to limit visitors to hospitals, emergency rooms and other places sick people go for care.
“Although you may still feel healthy and want to check on a loved one in the hospital, during that visit you could be potentially exposing them to a virus they may not be able to recover from,” McMahan said. “So during this time of increased flu activity, please call or send a card to share your good thoughts with those who are ill. And if you are sick with a fever – stay home. Please don’t go to work!”
In addition to the temporary restrictions on visitors, the department also recommends all residents do the following to minimize flu transmission:
– Get vaccinated. All residents 6 months and older should be vaccinated against influenza, as well as pneumonia and pertussis (if recommended) unless there are known allergies to these vaccines. While the vaccine may not provide 100 percent protection against the flu viruses currently circulating, health officials continue to advise residents to get the shot, because at the very least it will help reduce the severity of illness.
– Stay home if you are sick. All residents experiencing fever and muscle aches should stay from school, work, shopping or other social gatherings until they have no fever for 24 hours without the benefit of fever reducing medications.
– Wash your hands frequently. Use soap and warm water whenever possible; if not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean hands.
– Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
– Wear a mask if needed. Patients with cough or fever seeking treatment at a healthcare facility should ask for a mask to wear.
Influenza vaccinations can be received at many local pharmacies. Visit www.heroesplan.org/locations/ for available locations. Vaccines can also be received by scheduling an appointment at the Allen County Department of Health Medical Annex, or by visiting an area urgent care clinic or primary care provider’s office.