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Flu spike causes hospital systems to restrict visitation

Staff report • Dec 21, 2017 at 9:42 AM

KINGSPORT — Both Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System saw flu numbers drastically increase this week, prompting both health systems to restrict visitation at all hospitals in order to protect patients.

Mountain States and Wellmont are asking anyone younger than 12 and anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms to refrain from visiting patients in the hospital at this time.

Flu-like symptoms include cough, fever, body aches, headache, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, chills and fatigue.

The restrictions are in place much earlier this flu season due to the rapid increase of the disease across the region, which matches the state and national trend, the two systems said in a joint release.

During the week of Dec. 3, Mountain States and Wellmont hospitals recorded 54 positive flu cases. The following week, that number more than doubled to 140.

“We’ve seen a sharp increase in flu cases over the last several days, and we expect the numbers to continue to grow,” said Jamie Swift, director of Infection Prevention at Mountain States. “We’re implementing these restrictions at our hospitals to protect our patients and our community as a whole. We are entering the peak of flu season much earlier this year, so if you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, please get one. Now is the time.”

Prior to implementing restricted visitation, Wellmont and Mountain States hospitals were already employing a number of other precautions, including providing masks at each entrance and registration area and designating separate waiting areas for patients experiencing fever or respiratory symptoms.

“The flu is a potentially fatal virus that can spread even before symptoms arise, so it is important to observe these restrictions and protect patients,” said Gail Stanley, M.D., an infectious disease physician at Bristol Regional Medical Center. “People should take appropriate precautions to protect themselves and prevent spreading the virus, such as washing their hands frequently, covering their cough and staying home if they are ill. But the best move anyone can make is to receive a flu vaccination, which is readily available throughout the region.”

A vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older, especially pregnant women, the elderly and anyone with a weakened immune system.

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