Protecting Our Community from the Flu

January 26, 2018

With flu season now in full swing across the nation, Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center and Conemaugh Physician Group offices are starting to see an influx of influenza cases. Due to the high number of cases and severity of the illness, several temporary measures are now in place to help keep patients, employees and visitors safe.

Conemaugh Health System’s Open Visitation policy is temporarily restricted. 

  • Visitors with flu like symptoms are restricted from visiting patients.
  • Visitors with flu symptoms will be given a mask and asked to leave patient areas.
  • Only 2 adult visitors are allowed to visit a patient at one time.
  • Children under the age of 12 should not visit the hospital unless it is to visit a sibling in Maternity.
  • Children should not come to outpatient appointments with a family member unless the appointment is for the child.
  • Visitors are asked to wash hands or use waterless hand cleanser when entering and leaving a patient’s room or patient care area.

“If you or a loved one begins to notice symptoms including coughing, sore throat, fever or upper respiratory symptoms, please see your primary care physician right away,” says Dr. Susan Williams, Chief Medical Officer for the Conemaugh Health System. “Early detection is especially important for young children, elderly populations, pregnant women and people with certain chronic health issues. When detected early, prescription antiviral drugs can often help treat the illness and shorten the time you are sick by one or two days.” 

Doctors also remind the public it is not too late to get the flu shot. “Flu season can run as late as May,” says Dr. Daniel Wehner, Chairman of Emergency Services at Coneamugh Memorial Medical Center. “So even though we are currently seeing an influx of cases, there are still a few months left in the flu season so it is still a good idea to get protected.” It takes about two weeks after vaccination to build the antibodies that protect against the virus.

While it is still possible to contract the flu after receiving a vaccination, it is much less likely. Furthermore, studies have shown that flu vaccinations can make the illness milder for those who do get sick.  

Conemaugh Health System recommends these additional preventative measures for the public:  

  • Washing your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol-based
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Avoiding sharing food, cups or eating utensils
  • Disinfecting door knobs, light switches, children’s toys and play areas
  • Staying home from school or work if you are sick to prevent the spread of germs
  • Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue, your sleeve or elbow, and NOT your bare hands

For those who do contract the flu virus, it is important to limit contact with others as much as possible immediately after noticing symptoms. Stay home (or keep your child home) for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, except to seek medical care or for other necessities.

Patients with flu-like symptoms are encouraged to go to their primary care physician for testing and treatment. Treatment in the Emergency Room is typically not needed unless a person has more severe symptoms which include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain or severe abdominal pain
  • Confusion
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Vomiting that won’t stop

With children, additional signs that emergency care is needed include:

  • Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Bluish color to the skin, especially the face or chest
  • Not drinking enough fluids (dehydration)
  • Difficult or unable to wake up
  • Severe irritability
  • Stiff neck
  • A severe headache that does not improve with medication
  • Fever (over 100.3) if the child is under 3 months old

For additional information about influenza, visit www.cdc.org/flu or contact the Public Health Department.