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 coming to a healthcare facility for treatment who has cold- or flu-like symptoms (such as fever, cough or muscle aches) 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.
Recommendations were prompted by the continued uptick in influenza-like illness locally. The more common strains of the virus now being reported are influenza A/H1N1 and influenza B/Victoria, which seem to be covered well by this season’s vaccine, Dr. McMahan said.
Restrictions are recommended to curb unintentional exposure of patients in hospitals, nursing homes or any other confined settings while the community is experiencing widespread influenza transmission. Influenza can spread during the incubation period – when a person has been exposed and no symptoms are present, but the virus is actively multiplying in his or her body.
Visitor guidelines are similar to those implemented in previous years, and healthcare facilities may have additional restrictions in certain areas as needed. Anyone with questions about restrictions should call the hospital, healthcare facility or nursing home they plan to visit before arriving. Flu activity will be monitored by health officials throughout the season to determine the best time to lift visitor restrictions.
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. Flu shots are available at many local pharmacies. Vaccines can also be obtained by scheduling an appointment at the Allen County Department of Health Medical Annex, or visiting local Super Shot locations, urgent care clinics or primary care providers’ offices.
– Stay home if you are sick. All residents experiencing fever and muscle aches should stay home from school, work, shopping or other social gatherings until they have no fever for 24 hours without the benefit of fever reducing medications. Stock up on items needed for comfort and hydration before getting sick to avoid further flu spread. If treatment is needed, consider contacting your primary care physician’s office or healthcare facility of choice first to see if there is a telemedicine option available. Remember antiviral medications are most effective if given within the first 48 hours of symptoms.
– 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 can also exacerbate chronic health conditions – like lung or heart disease and diabetes – and easily morph into bacterial pneumonia. Anyone with chronic health conditions who develops a fever should contact their doctor immediately. And remember to check in frequently with elderly loved ones and neighbors, especially if they live alone.