Flu Restricts Visitors at PH DuBois

January 13, 2015

Influenza season is here and considered widespread in Pennsylvania, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Influenza, or the flu, activity is expected to continue into the coming weeks, Kathy Lemmon, director of Infection Prevention and Control at Penn Highlands DuBois, said.

That is why PH DuBois is now restricting those visiting patients to age 16 and older until the flu outbreak slows, Lemmon said.

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit was already restricting its visitors to age 16 and older since Oct. 1 and will continue to do so until April 30. This includes any baby's siblings. “At this time of year RSV and the flu a concern for our patient population. This effort keeps PH DuBois NICU babies healthy,” Suzanne McCullough, RN and director of the NICU said.

And restriction visitors throughout the hospital does the same. It prevents patients who are already compromised from getting sicker.

What is the flu? The flu is caused by a virus, and its symptoms are much more intense than a cold. Symptoms include:
• A 100 degree or higher fever or feeling feverish though not everyone with the flu has a fever;
• A cough and/or sore throat;
• A runny or stuffy nose;
• Headaches and/or body aches;
• Chills;
• Fatigue;
• Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea which are more common in children.

The flu is transmitted person to person. It can travel in droplets up to six-feet away when a person coughs or sneezes.

Transmission can also occur from touching a virus contaminated surface and then touching your face, such as your mouth or nose. Influenza viruses can last from 2-8 hours on surfaces.

This year, Influenza A (H3N2) viruses are most common so far, the CDC said. H3N2-predominant seasons have been associated with more severe illness and mortality, especially in older people and young children, relative to seasons during which H1N1 or B viruses predominated. There are early indications that this season may be severe, especially for people aged 65 years and older and young children.

How do you avoid getting the flu? Get a flu shot. Flu vaccines protect against the top strains of flu that are to go around that flu season. Though it is not perfect this year, it will help.

One of the three viruses has changed a bit in the world since the virus was created. Though not as effective with one strain, it does protect some protection against it and a lot of protection against the others.

The vaccine has been shown to offer other benefits such as reducing illness, antibiotic use, time lost from work, hospitalizations and deaths. Flu shots take effect within two weeks.

Also, remember to wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitizers, Lemmon said.

Always cover your sneezes and coughs, and throw away all tissues in the trash. Stay away from others even at home, and try to use disposable utensils, cups and plates to keep your germs away from others.

If you do get the flu, stay home. Don’t spread your illness at work, school, church, the mall, the grocery store or anywhere! You can infect others one day before symptoms develop and five to seven days after symptoms appear. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be contagious for a longer period, according to the CDC.

If you do feel sick, symptoms can be treated with or without medication. Over-the-counter medications may relieve some symptoms. Patients with other health issues should talk to their health care providers who may prescribe antiviral medications to make the illness milder and prevent serious complications.

Antibiotics do not help fight viruses, but if a flu has caused a bacterial infection – such as a lung, ear or sinus infection – a patient may get an antibiotic.

Anyone with the flu should stay home and get plenty of rest. Be fever free for 24 hours - without taking fever-reducing medicines - to return to work or school or to attend any public function. Remember, no medication makes anyone less contagious.

Drink plenty of clear fluids to stay hydrated. A cool, damp washcloth on the forehead can help reduce fevers. Use a humidifier to help breathe better. Gargle with warm salt water for a sore throat, and cover up with warm blankets for the chills.

Though having the flu doesn’t always mean a visit to the Emergency Department, there are signs to be concerned about. They are:
• Fast or troubled breathing or shortness of breath;
• Bluish or gray skin color in children;
• Not drinking enough liquids, especially in children;
• Severe or persistent vomiting;
• Not waking up or interacting, especially in children.

Also, please note that other hospitals in the Penn Highlands Healthcare system also have different visitor restrictions.

At PH Elk, only immediate adult family members are allowed and no children under the age of 18 are permitted. The Maternity Unit is only allowed to have parents and grandparents visit.

PH Brookville and PH Clearfield do not have any restrictions, yet, but that can change that can change very quickly depending on what is going on in the communities.