MOUNT VERNON — Influenza, more commonly called the flu, has definitely arrived in the area and seems to be having a heyday.
Elaine Flowers, infection preventionist at Knox Community Hospital, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the flu is at epidemic proportions this season, and Flowers tends to agree. For example, she said, KCH had 16 patients diagnosed with the flu in December 2013. So far this December, KCH has had 68 patients diagnosed with the flu.
“It is scary,” she said. “Those are huge numbers. It seems to be hitting the children and the elderly the hardest. … I’ve never seen it this bad.”
In order to protect patients, staff and other visitors, the hospital has posted Flu Alert and Flu Precaution signs throughout its campus. There are surgical masks and tissues available at various entry areas. In addition, alcohol-based hand rubs are located all over the hospital and people need to use those, Flowers said. Environmental services, she added, are doing extra disinfecting in public areas to help control the germs.
Stop — Flu Precaution signs say, “Visitors: Please do not enter to visit patients if you have any of the following symptoms: Nasal congestion/runny nose; sore throat; cough; fever or feverish.”
If someone feels it is necessary to visit, Flu Alert signs instruct people to: “Take a mask and place it securely over your mouth and nose; clean your hands with hand sanitizer; use tissues to cover your coughs and sneezes; and please do not visit patients if you are sick.”
According to the CDC, people infected with the flu may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after they become sick. The flu virus is thought to spread mainly though droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk, and may also spread when people touch something with the flu virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes or nose.
Flowers said one way to keep from getting the flu is to stay at least three feet away from people who are coughing or sneezing, no matter where you are.
Other suggestions from the CDC that can help slow the spread of germs:
•If you or your child gets sick with a flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, except to get medical care or for other necessities. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medication.
•While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
•Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue 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 rub or disposable wipes.
•Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
•Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu, such as doorknobs, keyboards and phones.
If you do get flu-like symptoms, the CDC advises that there are prescription antiviral drugs that can treat the illness, and early treatment is especially important for the elderly, the very young, people with certain chronic health conditions and pregnant women.