Area hospitals reaffirm warnings, restrict younger visitors amid flu outbreak

Credit: Vidant Health

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Hospitals across Hampton Roads are working to protect patients and visitors against the flu.

The warnings are renewed after the recent death of a 7-year-old from Hurt, Virginia.

At least 37 children across the United States have died from the flu.

Because of the high number of cases, an Outer Banks hospital group has issued a ban on certain visitors Tuesday.

A spokesperson gave WAVY.com this statement:

Vidant Health has temporarily changed its family presence visitation practices due to the high number of people with flu in our communities, and the high frequency of flu in children. There is one exception: a well-child under 12 years of age may visit their newborn sibling. It is not uncommon for Vidant to restrict access during this time of year when flu season peaks. Once our experts determine the number of flu cases have decreased, we will again welcome family visitors of all ages.
Jason Lowry
Associate Director, Communications

Across Hampton Roads, hospitals have set up masking stations equipped with hand sanitizer.

Credit: Vidant Health

At Chesapeake Regional, signs are posted on the floors warning visitors.

“The last two years have been a little bit more milder but this year we definitely had an uptick in cases,” said Tiffany Silmon, the Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Chesapeake Regional.

She explained healthcare officials haven’t seen impacts like they’re seeing now since the 2014-2015 flu season.

Officials want you to heed the warnings.

“What we found is that data shows that the flu can be passed 24 hours before symptoms present,” she said.

Officials advise you should remember to wash your hands, sneeze in your sleeve, get the flu vaccine and most importantly don’t visit someone in the hospital if you’re sick.

Bon Secours is taking the following steps:

1.       Strongly recommending individuals to wear masks if they have flu like symptoms

2.       Separating individuals with flu like symptoms from other patients who may be seeing care for other conditions

3.       Encouraging people to use our telemedicine option – Bon Secours 24/7

The telemedicine option allows people with colds, ear aches, minor illnesses or even the flu to have a visit via their phone, computer or iPad. Bon Secours 24/7 gives the community access to the health system’s medical group providers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, no appointment necessary and no waiting room.

Riverside Hospital told WAVY.com they have been running messages about the flu. They also have an app called Virtual Visits where you can see and speak to a doctor over your cell phone.

Sentara is experiencing high volumes at its Hampton Roads Emergency Departments due to an influx of patients with flu and cold symptoms.

According to a statement, In an effort to provide the best treatment for our patients and protect all patients seeking care at any Sentara location, we encourage patients to consider the following when identifying the ideal location for treatment.

Primary Care Doctor’s Office or MDLIVE
Patients experiencing mild symptoms should call their primary care doctor’s office to schedule an appointment for consultation or use MDLIVE. Mild symptoms may include a low-grade fever and/or body aches.

Urgent Care
Patients experiencing moderate symptoms should seek care at an Urgent Care location. Moderate symptoms may include a persistent low-grade fever, congestion, sore throat and/or headache.

Emergency Department
Patients experiencing severe symptoms are asked to seek care immediately at the Emergency Department nearest them. Severe symptoms may include difficulty breathing, confusion, persistent low-grade fever or worsening high-grade fever and/or patients with preexisting medical conditions.

Kelsea Smith
Brand Engagement Advisor
Sentara Healthcare

Flu FAQ:

The common cold and flu are both contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract. Although the symptoms can be similar, flu is much worse. A cold may drag you down a bit, but the flu can make you shudder at the very thought of getting out of bed. Congestion, sore throat and sneezing are common with colds. Both cold and flu bring coughing, headache and chest discomfort. With the flu, though, you are likely to run a high fever for several days and have body aches, fatigue and weakness. Symptoms of the flu also tend to come on abruptly. Usually, complications from colds are relatively minor, but a severe case of flu can lead to a life-threatening illness such as pneumonia.

How Does It Spread?

The flu is a highly contagious disease. It spreads when you come into contact with the stuff someone else sneezes or coughs up. You could breathe it in, or get it from kissing. You could get it on your hands from objects like silverware, doorknobs, handles, television remotes, computer keyboards, and telephones. The virus enters your body when you touch your hands to your nose, eyes, or mouth.

How Long Am I Contagious?

You can spread the flu 7 days after symptoms start. The virus can live in your mucus and spit up to 24 hours before you start to feel bad. This means you might give it to someone else a full day before your symptoms begin.
Young children can still spread the flu even into the second week of illness


10 On Your Side contacted all of the seven Hampton Roads’ school divisions to find out what they are doing to protect your children.

Virginia Beach
The school division is very much aware of how widespread the flu is this year. We are fortunate to have outstanding teams from the office of custodial services in each school who thoroughly clean the classrooms and common areas of our buildings each night. Here is a link to our “flu information” page on vbschools.com.

Also, It’s worth noting that there is a  registered nurse in every school clinic across the division. So, we have top-notch staff on hand to care for students who are feeling ill.

Eileen M. Cox
Chief Media and Communications Officer
Virginia Beach City Public Schools

Newport News
Our school nurses and teachers encourage frequent handwashing all year long, especially during cold and flu season. Our school nurses are frequent contributors to school newsletters. This time of year, many of their columns focus on staying healthy during flu season with an emphasis on washing hands; not touching your nose, mouth and eyes; and most importantly, staying home if you feel sick.

Students and staff members who are exhibiting signs of the flu (with or without fever) are asked to leave school and stay home until their symptoms subside.

Michelle Price
Newport News Public Schools

Norfolk

We have not specifically changed anything, but we are employing our usual practices when it comes to cold and flu season. We are certainly encouraging staff to be vigilant in their reminders and monitoring of students, staff and visitors.

The school nurses monitor clinic visits for signs and symptoms of flu. In cases of suspected flu a notice is sent home with the ill students. Parents are requested to notify the school (nurse) of any positive test results.
– Letters detailing when to keep your child at home (i.e., when they have fevers, runny nose, cough, etc.)are provided to students/parents.
– Classroom desks, equipment, door knobs light switches and anything touched by hands are wiped with disinfecting wipes/Lysol spray constantly.
– Some schools use morning & afternoon announcements to re-inforce good respiratory hygiene habits.
– Nurses send out mass emails to remind building occupants to maintain good hygiene practices.
– Posters mounted in highly trafficked areas throughout buildings reminding students and staff how to properly cover cough and wash hands.
– Use of hand sanitizer & tissues encouraged/enforced.
– Good hand washing with soap & water whenever possible is promoted over hand sanitizer.
– Everyone is reminded to stay home with cold and flu symptoms to prevent the spread of illness.

Khalilah LeGrand

Norfolk Public Schools

Chesapeake
To ensure the safety of students and staff during flu season, Chesapeake Public Schools takes the following precautions:

·         Health Services continually monitors daily counts on confirmed/suspected cases at each school.

·         Nursing staff works collaboratively with custodial services to clean with appropriate wipes all knobs, hand rails, faucets and areas considered “touch surfaces.”

·         Health Services staff members communicate daily with the health department on prevalence.

·         Educational information from the Chesapeake Health Department is distributed to all families to minimize exposures.

·         When there are suspected cases, Chesapeake Public Schools supplies masks for affected students when delayed at school to minimize exposure to students being seen in the clinic.

As always, the safety of our students and staff is our priority.

Angie Smith, Ed. D.
Public Information Officer
Chesapeake Public Schools

Suffolk
Suffolk Public Schools follows the recommended guidelines as set forth by the CDC.  Our main goal is prevention through education of students, staff, and parents on hand washing, covering your sneeze/cough, and staying home when ill.

Here is the CDC’s flu guide for parents:

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/updated/fluguideforparents.pdf

This is the link to the CDC’s You Tube video with step by step guide to washing hands:

https://www.cdc.gov/cdctv/healthyliving/hygiene/fight-germs-wash-hands.html

According to the CDC, the best way to prevent the flu is by getting the flu vaccine.  In October 2017, we had 354 staff members participate in our free flu vaccine clinics throughout the district.  SPS has about 1,900 employees.

Bethanne Bradshaw
Public Information Officer – Suffolk Public Schools