The Transylvania Times -

By Jeremiah Reed
Staff Writer 

Flu Season Back - Brevard NC

 


For the second straight year, the Transylvania Regional Hospital is limiting visitors to the hospital due to an increase in the number of flu symptoms they are seeing in the county.

“Because rates of influenza have risen sharply statewide and locally, Transylvania Regional Hospital is asking people to minimize their visits to patients in the hospital,” according to a release from the hospital. “Visitors are also discouraged from bringing teenagers and children to Transylvania Regional Hospital at this time.”

In particular, children under age 12 and people who do not feel well are asked to call patients rather than visit them.

“This decision is based on recommendations from Mission Health’s Infection Prevention Committee in an effort to minimize the spread of influenza among patients,” said Dale Fell, M.D., senior vice president and system chief medical officer of Mission Health. “Our patients are our first priority and their health and safety are paramount.”

Mission Health has implemented this precaution at Mission Hospital and all Mission Health member hospitals and affiliates in Western North Carolina including CarePartners in Asheville, McDowell Hospital in Marion, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine and Angel Medical Center in Franklin.

As always, visitors are urged to wash or sanitize their hands before and after visiting patients and entering or leaving the hospital. Hand sanitizing stations and dispensers are located throughout the hospital.

As of Friday, Transylvania Regional Hospital had multiple confirmed cases of influenza.

“We have definitely had an increase in flu at TRH,” said Jamie Staton, RN, TRH’s infection preventionist. “We’ve had 27 positive cases of flu since Oct. 1—most of these were just in the last week of December.”

Flu rates typically peak during January or February. People who have not yet gotten the influenza vaccine are urged to do so immediately, and to ensure that their children have been vaccinated. Older adults, children, pregnant women and people with asthma, heart disease and diabetes are especially vulnerable to flu complications. There have been 13 influenza-associated deaths in North Carolina since the beginning of October.

A similar visitor limitation request was issued for Transylvania Regional Hospital last year due to high rates of flu in the community.

Health Director Steve Smith said that while they have seen some cases in the county recently, it isn’t as widespread as in surrounding counties. But he fears that could change in the coming weeks.

“We’ve certainly seen an uptick,” Smith said. “I think we typically see that because of the clusters of families and people who get together over the holidays.”

Smith said this year the flu strain commonly circulating seems to be affecting middle aged and younger people, as opposed to the older generations normally most impacted.

Smith also urged people who haven’t gotten a flu shot to do so immediately.

“It typically takes about two weeks to develop immunity, but it starts to incrementally begin working in the days after getting the shot,” he said.

This year, one of the most common strains currently circulating is the H1N1 virus, which was widespread in 2009. This year’s flu vaccine contains a variant of that strain, which makes it very effective in preventing the flu and will hopefully make the flu less likely to be as widespread as it was in 2009.

“The vaccine composition is a really good match for the strains that are circulating this year,” he said.

While North Carolina is still considered to be one of few states in the country where the flu is not widespread, neighboring counties of Buncombe and Henderson have seen a recent uptick in flu-like symptoms.

“I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet, though,” Smith said.

Although the flu virus is typically blamed for deaths each year, pneumonia and other respiratory issues are often the cause of the most severe illnesses, Smith said.

“The flu starts that cycle,” he said. “It creates an opportunity for that type of respiratory illness to increase and become severe. For that reason, we recommend people consider pneumonia shots as well as the flu shot.”

Beside vaccination, the best way to combat the flu, according to Smith, is by frequently washing one’s hands and utilize hand sanitizing stations whenever possible.

Vaccines are available through regular health care providers and at retail pharmacies across Transylvania County. The Transylvania County Department of Public Health also has free flu vaccines for the uninsured and those who cannot afford vaccination while supplies last.

For more information, call the Health Department at 884-3135.

Visit flu.gov for more information on the flu.

 
 

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