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Take Precautions as Flu Activity Increases

We are in the middle of a particularly severe flu and respiratory illness season that is stretching the resources of hospitals throughout the country and especially in the southeast. Phoebe has seen our weekly number of patients presenting with flu symptoms rise dramatically over the last few weeks. Early in the flu season we were testing around 100-120 patients for the flu each week. That number spiked to 421 the week of January 15 – 21, not including a significant number of patients treated for flu symptoms without an actual flu test. At Phoebe we have taken multiple steps to increase our staffing levels to ensure that we continue to provide high quality care to patients who need to be hospitalized. There are some everyday preventive steps you can take to keep you and your family healthy and to avoid hospitalization this flu season.

Get a flu shot. Even though we are well into the peak season, it is not too late to get vaccinated. Although this year’s vaccine is not as effective as in previous years, it is still recommended that you receive the vaccine. The vaccine may prevent you from getting the flu or, at the very least, lessen the length and severity of your illness if you do become infected.

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • When sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • If you are sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care or other necessities.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose, as germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects such as door handles that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

If you do develop flu symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, sore throat, body aches, and fatigue, contact your physician or seek medical attention. An antiviral medication, Oseltamivir (Tamiflu), can be quite effective in diminishing the severity and duration of flu symptoms, particularly if prescribed early after onset of symptoms. The elderly and young children are particularly susceptible to developing severe illness from the flu.

For the protection of our patients, staff and the public, we have instituted temporary visitation guidelines at our hospitals during flu season. Patient visitation should be limited to those offering care and support of the patient. If you are exhibiting any cold or flu symptoms, you will be required to wear a mask in the hospital.

Also, children under the age of 18 should not visit the hospital. This restriction is for their own safety because children are more susceptible to becoming ill from the flu. In addition, they are more likely to spread the germs because they generally come in contact with so many other children at school and may not practice proper hand hygiene. This restriction is not limited to patient rooms. We ask that you not bring children to the hospital and leave them in the lobby while you visit a patient.

We apologize for any inconvenience these guidelines may cause. We wish you good health, and we appreciate your understanding and your willingness to help us provide the safest possible environment for all our patients and minimize the spread of this serious illness.