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How to be a good visitor during the flu season

By Dr. Shankar Kurra • Feb 3, 2018 at 6:00 PM

So, your mother is in the hospital and you want to go visit her. With influenza trending high in the community right now, it is important that you be a good visitor and employ basic principles of infection prevention.

First of all, if you have respiratory symptoms or illness, we ask you to stay home. While we currently do not have any age restrictions during this flu season, it is important to protect your loved one from any sickness you may have.

You should stay home if you have the following symptoms:

• Fever

• Cough

• Sore throat

• Runny or congested nose

• Body aches

• Chills

• Fatigue

• Nausea and/or vomiting

• Diarrhea

Who is the most vulnerable to illness?

Although everyone is a health care patient at one point or another in their lives, some are at a higher risk of getting sick when they’re exposed to illness, including:

• People age 65 years and older

• People who are immunocompromised such as with HIV, hepatitis or cancer

• Pregnant women

• Newborns and young infants

• People who live with, or care for, the immunocompromised or elderly

• People who have chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and lung disease

How do you prevent the spread of illness?

Here are a few simple steps from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) to follow when you visit a healthcare facility to prevent the spread of viruses to others.

• Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.

• Clean your hands often—especially before entering and after exiting the hospital room.

• Use soap and water to wash your hands or an alcohol-based hand rub to disinfect your hands.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

• Get your flu shot. The best way to prevent the flu and spreading illness is by getting vaccinated each year. Please Note: There have been some reports in the news that the influenza vaccine is not as effective this year. Getting the shot still protects against many strains of the virus and also has been proven to reduce the severity and duration of the disease.

What are transmission-based precautions?

In many health care settings, transmission-based precautions are implemented to stop the spread of germs from one person to the other. If the person you are visiting is on transmission-based precautions or isolation, talk to the nurse before entering the room to find out if you will need to anything special before entering the room such as wearing a mask, a gown and/or gloves.

It is our mission to be responsible for the well-being of our community and to protect and provide safe care to our patients. As we continue through this flu season, the goal is to protect patients, their families, visitors, and healthcare workers. As we put precautions in place, we hope to stop germs from spreading across a health care setting.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Shankar Kurra is the senior vice president of medical affairs at Fisher-Titus Medical Center. He also is board certified in internal medicine.

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