Consistent with a statewide spike in flu cases, Scotland health officials have seen an increased number of seasonal flu cases this week.
Beginning Monday, children under the age of 12 will not be allowed to visit, and visitors who have not received a flu vaccination will be asked to wear a facial mask upon entering the hospital. These restrictions will apply to Scotland Memorial Hospital, the Edwin Morgan Center, Hospice of Scotland County, and outpatient clinics.
Scotland Healthcare System has reported a rise in flu cases in both the Emergency Center and Scotland Urgent Care.
“We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our patients and our visitors,” said Lane Harrington, VP of patient services. “We will notify the public when the limited visitation policy has been lifted.”
Scotland Health Care System has also implemented a mandatory flu vaccination program for all health care system associates, volunteers, contract workers, and students. Any unvaccinated health care worker who is providing patient care will wear a facial mask in order to provide a healthy environment.
In the week ending on Dec. 8, the state Department of Health and Human Services said the percentage of patients displaying influenza-like symptoms jumped to over five percent, up more than three percent from the week before.
During the same week in the 2011-2012 flu season, fewer than one percent of patients displayed flu symptoms, and symptoms never occurred in more than two percent of patients from Oct 2011 to May 2012. In 2011, the state saw a spike in flu cases from Jan. 1, 2011 to Feb. 23, 2011, which peaked at six percent.
Basic steps to prevent the transmission of influenza include good hygiene practices and remaining home for at least 24 hours when sick.
“Washing your hands with soap and water is the number one thing for prevention,” said Tina Clark, interim director of nursing at the Scotland County Department of Health. “Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth - if you open the door when you have flu, you’re setting it up for somebody else to get it.”
The health department has vaccinated some 300 people for influenza this year, and many others are receiving vaccine elsewhere.
“Traditionally the health department is where you go to get your flu shot but over the last few years it’s changed and they’re available everywhere,” Clark said. “There’s not a barrier for people to get vaccine. State-supplied flu vaccine is available for everyone six months and up regardless of insurance status.”
Three influenza-related deaths have been reported statewide - two in the Triad area and one in the eastern part of the state. One of them did not have preexisting conditions that would normally leave patients susceptible to complications. Flu victims who are older than 65, younger than 5, pregnant or suffer from medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease are urged to immediately consult medical services.