Hospitals continue to limit visitation as flu gathers momentum

J. H. Osborne • Dec 27, 2017 at 8:41 AM

KINGSPORT — The number of flu cases diagnosed at Wellmont Health System hospitals shot up to 144 last week, compared to 56 the week before, according to numbers released by Wellmont on Monday.

Both Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System restricted visitation at all hospitals in order to protect patients last week after flu cases first began to rise.

A Wellmont spokesman said those restrictions continue.

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 last week.

During the week of Dec. 3, Mountain States and Wellmont hospitals combined recorded 54 positive flu cases.

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,” Gail Stanley, M.D., an infectious disease physician at Bristol Regional Medical Center, said last week. “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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