TMC monitors flu outbreak

Influx dissipated over last two weeks
Jan. 19, 2013 @ 07:00 AM

 

Thomasville Medical Center is taking steps to ensure the nationwide flu outbreak doesn't spread to patients, visitors and staff.
While the current flu epidemic has not caused TMC to restrict visitations as it did three years ago amidst the H1N1 outbreak, the hospital still asks visitors to use discretion. In October 2009, TMC and other area hospitals restricted anyone under 18 from visiting patients due to the high ratio of reported H1N1 flu cases among children and adults 24 and younger.
Jane Wilder, TMC's community relations manager, said concerns have yet to reach the 2009 level, but administrators are continuing to monitor a flu epidemic that has affected the entire country.
"We're taking precautions now," Wilder said. "We're asking patients and visitors to be cautious when they come to visit so they don't bring anything contagious to the hospital. As far as officially limiting visits, it will probably be on an individual basis."
Visitors are being asked to always keep their hands washed and sanitized. Anyone with symptoms is urged to stay home. Certain restrictions are being maintained in high risk areas such as intensive care and emergency departments. Wilder said restrictions may vary so visitors may want to call a department leader before coming. 
"When the H1N1 was so rampant, we limited visitations," said Wilder. "Right now, it seems to be working well. We haven't had to take any other measures. The medical directors are observing and making sure we're making the best medical decisions for our patients and our staff."
Wilder said much of the TMC staff has received a flu shot and those who have not are being asked to wear a protective mask while providing patient care or services. Employees are required to stay home if they have a fever of 100 degrees or higher or any other flu-like symptoms. Employees may not return to work until they have been fever free for 24 hours.
Flu isn't the only virus going around, Wilder said. Patients are visiting the emergency room for other illnesses, but the flu vaccine being administered seems to be working.
"There appears to be a lot of sickness, but they feel like they've got the right strand for the virus and the vaccine," Wilder said. "It's still not too late for people to get their flu shot if they can."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, North Carolina is one of 24 states experiencing high influenza-like illness (ILI) activity. Levels are based on the percent of outpatient visits in a state due to ILI compared to times of the year with little or no flu virus circulation. Seventeen people, including 14 older than 65, across the state already have died from the virus since flu season began.
Johnny Gusdon, one of TMC's emergency department physicians, said that the influx of people coming in with flu-like symptoms has dissipated over the last two weeks.   

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or duke@tvilletimes.com.