State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah recently announced that reported cases of influenza are increasing throughout New York and flu activity in the state is now considered to be widespread.
According to a media release from Bassett Medical Center, the number of people exhibiting flu-like symptoms in central New York and counties neighboring Otsego County mirrors the trends Shah has expressed concern about. For this reason, Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown is restricting visitation at the Birthing Center and on the Pediatric Unit. Individuals 14 years of age and younger will not be allowed to visit maternity or pediatric patients. Only parents, grandparents and birthing coaches may visit.
“Newborns and young children are among our most vulnerable patients and at greater risk for complications from the flu,” Chief of Pediatrics Dr. Philip Heavner said in the release. “Limiting visitation to healthy individuals is in the best interest of our patients, their loved ones and our staff.”
In response to a sudden increase in flu cases, some hospitals in central New York have limited visitation across all units, but Bassett is not yet taking this step as the number of flu cases in Otsego County hasn’t risen to a level that would indicate this is necessary. If there is a substantial increase in the number of people exhibiting flu-like symptoms, the visitor restrictions may be expanded.
“Patients hospitalized with respiratory illnesses are always put on precautions and this becomes especially important during the flu season. When we begin to see documented cases of the flu in our area, we begin to consider what additional precautions we need to take to protect our patients,” Ruth Blackman, senior director of Quality Resources Management at Bassett Medical Center, said in the release. “The best way to protect against getting the flu is to be vaccinated against it and wash your hands with soap and water frequently.”
Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something such as a surface or object with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. The virus can survive on a hard surface for as long as 48 hours and on paper or cloth 12 hours.
People sick with the flu may not exhibit symptoms for one to four days and can remain contagious for up to a week after becoming sick. To prevent becoming infected:
• 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.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
• If you are sick with flu-like illness, it’s recommended you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone or seven days after the onset of symptoms.
To learn more about seasonal influenza, visit www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.