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Flu intensifies, hospital restricts visitors

Every winter the flu makes its ugly return and health professionals provide advice on how to stop it from spreading.

1/23/18 (Tue)

Every winter the flu makes its ugly return and health professionals provide advice on how to stop it from spreading.

This season it seems to be much worse as some hospitals are at capacity caring for flu victims.

Locally, there have been some positive cases, but if people take the right precautions, they can stop it in its tracks, according to Noel Madsen, director of nursing at Kenmare Community Hospital.

One of the safeguards is with the hospital itself. Madsen said visitor restrictions are now in effect until further notice.

More specifically, only immediate family members may visit. They include parents, spouses, siblings and children.

If anyone has symptoms of flu that might include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, shortness of breath, sore throat, body aches or fever, they should stay away altogether.

According to Madsen, the reason is to protect residents and patients. It’s a Trinity Health-wide mandate that will remain until the flu subsides.

She said there have been 10 deaths in North Dakota this season and all of them have been 65 years or older. In 2017, 60 percent of those hospitalized were 65 or older.

This year, however, a 12-year-old patient has died, so it can strike anyone who has a weakened immune system. They are unable to fight off the virus and are thus more vulnerable.

“We’re at the peak of the flu season and it’s gotten bad,” Madsen said. “There’s nobody in the hospital now, but we have had positive tests in the community.”

Every year, vaccine is offered at the clinic, at drug stores, at VA facilities and even in some schools. First District Health Unit ran a clinic in October to provide flu shots.

Some people choose not to take the shot and they become more susceptible to contracting the disease.

“This is not meant to put a damper on anything,” Madsen said. “We’re doing it purely for safety.”

She called this season’s flu “a droplet virus.” What it means is the bug can be transmitted person to person, person to object, and object to person.

It’s a respiratory virus that people sometimes get confused with a bacterial flu virus which causes diarrhea and vomiting.

“It spreads from saliva or sputum,” she said. “Someone coughs, they cover their cough and later shake hands with somebody. They just spread to the other person.”

As a result, people need to wash their hands frequently and if that’s not possible, they should have hand sanitizer readily available for use.

Alcohol-based sanitizers that contain 60 to 95 percent alcohol are the most effective against the flu virus.

“Cover your coughs and sneezes, throw tissues in the trash and wear face masks if you are constantly coughing or sneezing,” Madsen said. “Avoid touching your face, don’t touch your eyes or rub your eyes. Stay home if you have symptoms and wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer.”

One thing that makes this year’s flu so dramatic is on day 1, you don’t even know you have the virus, according to Madsen. By day 3, it reaches its peak and can remain contagious for up to seven days.

She added precautions to ward off the flu have been going on since October within the hospital system. She said swing bed, the clinic and physical therapy areas are being audited on a regular basis to make sure employees are frequently washing their hands.

“Across the nation, hospitals are so full,” she said. “Again, no cases here in the hospital, but there have been positive results in the community.”

Madsen wouldn’t elaborate on how many flu cases have been discovered locally, but did hint that a “handful” of patients had been seen as of Monday morning.

Madsen also offered advice for area schools where hundreds of students and staff are in close proximity five days a week, and sometimes more when there are weekend sporting events.

“Frequent cleaning is the biggest thing,” she said. “Door knobs, hand rails, faucets, washing hands and have hand sanitizer available are all preventative measures. When someone is confined to a small area, that’s how it’s transmitted.”

One of the things that is seldom considered and is a way to spread the virus, is in playing basketball.  A player may have the virus, handles the ball and passes it to someone else who doesn’t. It’s that person to object to person transfer.

“So keep things clean,” Madsen said. “There has to be a lot of cleaning in public facilities.” ... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!