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EAMC urges residents to take precautions against ‘widespread’ flu

VALLEY — The flu is still going strong in East Alabama, according to the East Alabama Medical Center, prompting the medical provider to restrict visitors to its third floor in Opelika.

The third floor is reserved for the EAMC childbirth unit, OB observation, the mother/baby unit, nursery and Level II nursery and pediatrics. The hospital isn’t allowing any children under the age of 11 years old into the wing. Additionally, any visitors of any age who are sick with flu-like symptoms should not visit patients of any age, according to a news release from EAMC.

Brooke Bailey, director of infection prevention with EAMC, said visitors to the third floor are restricted because newborns cannot be given the flu vaccine until they are six months of age.

“They are considered very high risk,” she said.  

As of Wednesday, there aren’t visitor restrictions at EAMC-Lanier in Valley, but it could change as the winter progresses. Bailey said they are seeing a lot of young people in the Opelika and Valley area testing positive for the flu. Most of the cases are in people under the age of 18 years old.

The reason for the cutoff age of 11 years old in the childbirth unit is because the cases are even more predominant in those under the age of 12, Bailey said. Additionally, she said children older than 11 can be taught to wash their hands frequently when sick and not to touch things, which can spread the virus more rapidly.

Bailey recommends getting a flu shot every year because the flu strain changes each season.

“The flu shot is formulated every year based on the strain of the flu from the year before,” she said. “It should last you up to the duration of that season.”

She said the Center for Disease Control classifies flu season as October through March, but it could last longer in some cases.

According to EAMC, the top five ways to prevent the spreading of the flu are as follows:

4Washing hands frequently with soap and water, or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer;

4Cough or sneeze into a tissue or a sleeve;

4Avoid touching hands to mouth, nose or eyes;

4Don’t eat or drink after anybody; and

4Stay isolated if suffering from the flu or flu-like symptoms.