Mike Hester, chief executive officer of Liberty Regional Medical Center, said the hospital’s staff is taking precautions as the flu season, the worst in years, is still set to peak in the weeks ahead.
LRMC’s Infection Control Director Peggy Lee reported that LRMC has admitted only a few patients with the flu. She said they’ve sent culture specimens to be tested with results showing half were type A and the other half type B.
Lee said she contacted the Coastal Health District’s epidemiologist who reported they are investigating a couple of recent deaths but as of Friday afternoon, there are no confirmed flu related deaths in our district to report. The next influenza report will be released next week.
In the meantime, Liberty Regional is taking precautions to protect patients, nursing home residents, visitors and employees.
The following restrictions are being implemented for its Coastal Manor Long Term Care facility. Individuals under the age of 18 may not visit residents. Individuals who feel sick or have flu-like symptoms should not visit residents.
To help prevent the spread ofthe flu, LRMC is encouraging the public to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, cover coughs and sneezes with a mask or tissue, and get the flu vaccine.
The CDC reports that there four main types of influenza labeled A, B, C and D. The human influenza A and B viruses cause seasonal epidemics of disease almost every winter in the United States.
According to the CDC influenza activity has increased significantly over recent weeks with influenza A (H3N2) viruses predominating so far this season in the United States. The CDC noted that in the past, H3N2 virus-predominant influenza seasons have been associated with more hospitalizations and deaths in people 65 and older and young children, compared to other age groups.
The Georgia Department of Health’s influenza report, dated Jan. 26, reported 25 confirmed influenza-associated deaths.
Twenty of those deaths were people ages 65 and up. It reported five deaths in ages 51-64.
The report listed the influenza as being wide-spread throughout the state with 671 hospitalizations to date across the state.
The most concerning thing about this year’s flu strain is the increase in pediatric deaths. As of Friday the flu has killed 53 children, according to the CDC.
Neil Goodman, MD, board-certified pediatrician at Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Brunswick Pediatrics, an affiliate of Southeast Georgia Health System said parents should watch their children for possible signs and symptoms.
He said cold symptoms come on and progress slowly with a runny nose, cough or a low grade fever. The flu, however, has a rapid onset of symptoms including fever over 102°, body aches, shivers, diarrhea and vomiting.
Goodman said parents should seek immediate medical attention if:
• Child exhibits fast breathing or can’t seem to catch their breath.
• Lip color appears blue.
• There is a lack of urination.
• Child has an uncontrolled fever and cough.
• There is a noticeable change in mental status or child appears delirious.
The CDC recommends people get their annual flu shots to build up immunity to the virus.
Although this year’s strain has lessened the effectiveness of the current vaccine, not getting the shot leaves people more susceptible to the illness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, vaccination of those who are high-risk is especially important to decrease the risk of contracting the flu. Those considered high risk include young children, pregnant women, those with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease as well as those older than 65. In addition, those who live with or care for the high-risk should be vaccinated.
In addition, according to the CDC, everyone 6 months of age and older should receive a flu vaccine every year prior to the start of flu season. However, if you have not yet received the vaccine, it is not too late.
Health departments in seven area counties including Bryan and Liberty will offer flu shots free for people who do not have insurance from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday.
Shots will be given to people 3 and older on a first come basis while supplies last.