MENDOCINO CO., 1/8/17 -- The new year is off to a sickly start with a particularly strong strain of influenza filling local hospitals and causing at least 27 deaths statewide since October, in people under the age of 65. In response several local hospitals are implementing preventative measures to slow the spread of the flu, by placing some restrictions on who can visit patients in the hospital.
Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits and the Mendocino Coast District Hospital in Fort Bragg have both asked that young visitors, and anyone showing flu-like symptoms refrain from visiting the hospital, or patients. However, now does not include people seeking care, or coming to the hospital because they are sick, just people visiting other people in the hospitals.
At the Mendocino Coast Hospital, people younger than 14 are asked to refrain from visiting the hospital, and visitors with flu-like symptoms are asked to stay away unless they need treatment. As of Thursday, January 4, Howard Memorial is asking visitors younger than 13 to refrain from visiting patients unless in certain emergencies, and that pregnant women do not visit patients with the flu unless it is urgent. All visitors will be asked to check in before visiting patients so hospital staff can assess if they may be showing symptoms, and visitors are also asked to wash their hands before entering and exiting patients' rooms. A complete list of recommendations for Howard Memorial is available below.
Flu season often peaks between December and February but can last until May. As we all know symptoms include "fever and chills, muscle or body aches, as well as a cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and fatigue. Colds, on the other hand, are usually milder than flu symptoms, and come with a runny or stuffy nose without a fever."
Flu vaccines are still available at local hospitals, health clinics, and some drug stores and pharmacies. Due to the severity of this year's flu strain, infection prevention specialist Daria Fletcher notes that "the vaccine is not as effective for the particular of strain we are seeing this year, getting vaccinated still reduces the severity and chance of complications from the flu. Having the vaccine is still much better, than no protection at all.”
Public health officials in Humboldt and Trinity Counties, as well as statewide, are asking people to take extra precautions during this year's severe flu season. You can read the details from those public health departments here.
Here's the full press release from Howard Memorial:
"Monday, January 08, 2018 (Willits, CA) – Did you happen to take home the flu with you after all the holiday parties? You’re not alone. As expected, the recent holiday season has increased the number of flu cases nationwide. To date, 36 states have reported widespread flu activity and 12 children nationwide have died since October 1, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In California, 10 people under age 65 have died from influenza-related illness statewide. Typically, only one or two deaths, and sometimes none at all, have been reported in the same time frame.
In response to this and to protect its patients and the community, Adventist Health Howard Memorial (AHHM) has implemented temporary visitor restrictions and is asking young or sick visitors to stay away from the hospital unless necessary.
Effective Thursday, January 4, Howard Memorial is asking the public to voluntarily limit hospital visits. "This is a precautionary measure to protect patients, visitors and staff from spreading the flu and other upper respiratory illnesses," explains Daria Fletcher, infection prevention specialist at AHHM.
Fletcher says imposing flu restrictions are just one of the many steps the hospital is taking to protect the hospital’s patients and the public.
For those who are visiting the hospital while the flu visitation restrictions are in effect, AHHM is requesting that:
- Visitors must check in at the main lobby front desk or nurse’s station and will be asked about flu-like symptoms before they are allowed to visit.
- Visitors should be at least 13 years and older to minimize patient exposure to children who are at higher risk for transmission of viral infections and to protect children from getting sick. Exceptions may be made for dire situations.
- Pregnant women are encouraged not to visit patients with the flu since pregnancy is a risk factor for flu complications. Exceptions may be made in dire situations.
- Individuals who aren't feeling well with symptoms such as fever and cough are advised not visit hospitalized patients. If they have these symptoms but need to use the hospital’s services, they will be asked to wear a mask.
- All hospital visitors should wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel when entering and leaving a patient room.
- Everyone should cough or sneeze into their arm, shoulder or tissue to reduce the spread of germs.
Flu cases usually peak from December through February and may continue into May, according to public health officials. Given this, these safety measures at AHHM will be in effect until further notice. Of particular concern are those who are more susceptible to complications relating to the flu such as the elderly, pregnant women, those who have chronic health conditions and children under six months who are unable to receive the vaccine.
As for the flu shot, Fletcher says it’s not too late to get vaccinated. “While the vaccine is not as effective for the particular of strain we are seeing this year, getting vaccinated still reduces the severity and chance of complications from the flu. Having the vaccine is still much better, than no protection at all.”
Flu symptoms to look out for include fever and chills, muscle or body aches, as well as a cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and fatigue. Colds, on the other hand, are usually milder than flu symptoms, and come with a runny or stuffy nose without a fever.
Those sick from the virus are advised to stay home until they’re free of symptoms for 24 hours.
“We’ve had a record month and our beds are full but the staff has done a great job of making sure everyone gets the exceptional care we’re known for. Our patients come to us when they are most vulnerable and exposing them to the flu does not help their health outcome. We want to make sure we do everything we can to protect our patients and the community,” concludes Jason Wells, president and CEO at AHHM.
Flu vaccinations are available at Adventist Health Howard Memorial’s Primary Care clinic and Howard Pharmacy, both located in front of the hospital, at 3 Marcela Drive in Willits. For more information, call 707-459-6115 for the primary care clinic and 707-456-3005 for Howard Pharmacy."