EAMC places visitation restrictions to limit spread of Flu

Published 6:57 pm Wednesday, December 19, 2018

VALLEY —  Flu season is officially in full swing in Alabama, and although it likely hasn’t hit its peak yet, East Alabama Medical Center has restricted visitation to limit its spreading.

Effective Thursday, visitation to the Intensive Care Unit, Pediatrics, Childbirth Unit and Emergency Department is limited to healthy family members over the age of 12. This is the case for both EAMC and EAMC-Lanier where a total of 61 confirmed cases of the flu have been treated, according to a press release from the hospital.

These restrictions come one week after Alabama was listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as having “low” influenza activity. The CDC now says the state is experiencing a significant increase in the flu.

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“We had to put [the restrictions] in place last winter and I know many other hospitals did as well,” said Director of Infection Prevention at EAMC Brooke Bailey. “Our goal in doing so is to slow the spread of the flu and protect our patients who are vulnerable.”

Bailey said that flu cases in this part of the country normally peak in January and February, but that December has already seen its fair share of cases.

“For the month of December, there have been approximately 14 cases [at EAMC Lanier] that have been either through the ER or come in from outpatient labs, and that is about right on par with the Valley campus,” she said. “Not anything unusual or unexpected for this time of year.”

According to Bailey, both EAMC and EAMC Lanier are seeing roughly the same amount of flu cases as last year, with Opelika’s campus having slightly more.

It appears that the flu situation in the Greater Valley Area is largely normal, and the same can be said in the area’s school system. Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge confirmed that administrators are just now starting to see students affected by the flu.

“January to February is when it usually picks up, but with it being this rampant in Troup County, just right there, it could hit us a little earlier,” she said.

The Troup County School System dealt with a high number of flu cases at Long Cane Elementary School last week, with around 25 percent of students missing one day or more.

Hodge said that school faculty and staff are encouraged to get their flu vaccine and that shots were available on-site in October. Teachers will also remind parents and students to stay home if they are showing symptoms as not to spread the disease to others.

Spreading the flu to others can be extremely easy, according to Bailey, and to avoid doing so one must be cognizant of what they touch.

“Be mindful of where you go and what you do,” she said. “Whenever you touch your eyes, nose or mouth, those are the portals into our body so make sure you avoid touching those. If you cough, make sure it is covered.”

She also said that the best way to stay safe during flu season is to vaccinate.

“Vaccination is important to help prevent the flu and decrease the symptoms when you have the flu,” she said. “Vaccines aren’t 100 percent effective, however, it is the best protection that we have.”

Even though flu season has already started, Bailey said that vaccines are designed to last throughout the entirety of a year’s strain, so getting vaccinated is smart no matter what time of year.