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WV hospitals bump up their flu precautions

By From staff reports

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some hospitals in West Virginia are temporarily updating their visitation policies in an effort to curb the spread of the flu.

Numbers gathered from facilities across the state point to this year as the worst flu season since 2007 -- excluding the H1N1 "swine flu" pandemic in 2009-2010.

Two weeks ago, Charleston Area Medical Center limited visitors on hospital campuses to two per patient, and asked that children not visit at all. Anyone with a fever or sore throat has also been asked to stay away, said spokesman Dale Witte. Signs have been placed in hospital lobbies notifying patients and visitors of the temporary change.

Witte said Thursday that from mid-November to Jan. 6, 209 people were admitted to CAMC for the flu.

On Thursday, Ruby Memorial Hospital and WVU Children's Hospital in Morgantown followed suit. Officials announced that, beginning Sunday, visitors would be limited to two per patient, and children under the age of 12 are discouraged from visiting the hospital.

"While we have not experienced a high volume of flu cases, we're doing this for the health and safety of our patients, our staff and the community at large," Bruce McClymonds, president and CEO of WVU Hospitals, said in a news release. "The more we limit exposure to the flu, the less it will spread."

Those who have experienced flu symptoms for the previous 24 hours, particularly those who have had a fever, should not visit, WVU Healthcare officials advised. Patients and visitors exhibiting cold or flu-like symptoms will be asked to wear a mask.

While Thomas Health Systems has seen an uptick in flu cases compared to recent years, visiting policies and hours have not been changed, said spokeswoman Paige Johnson.

Instead, hospital officials are continuing to monitor the situation and take appropriate precautions. "Cover Your Cough" stations have been set up at all public entrances to both Thomas Memorial and St. Francis hospitals. The stations contain hand sanitizer and protective masks for anyone entering the hospital.

"We're making sure they are stocked at all times," Johnson said.

From Nov. 21 to last week, Thomas Memorial Hospital saw 56 cases of the flu, while St. Francis had 40.

State Public Health Commissioner Marian Swinker said last week that flu-like symptoms are widespread, with more than 15,000 people telling doctors they were ill last month and nearly 4,400 reporting they're sick so far this month.

But only 1,393 case of influenza had been confirmed.

Swinker said people should get a flu shot and take other precautions to avoid getting sick, such as washing hands frequently, covering sneezes and coughs and discarding used tissues.


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