• 45°

Statewide flu reports decreasing; St. Luke’s lifts visitor restrictions

The most recent North Carolina Weekly Influenza Surveillance Summary on the “widespread” flu outbreak indicates a decrease in reported cases of influenza statewide.

Hospital-based Public Health Epidemiologists reported only 210 positive influenza results statewide out of 1,354 samples tested during week 10 (ending March 10). In response to this positive news, St. Luke’s Hospital has lifted its flu restrictions for hospital visitors, caregivers, employees and patients.

“We’re encouraged that this ‘widespread’ outbreak is decreasing,” said St. Luke’s Hospital’s Infection Preventionist Lori Rothell. “Our healthcare team at St. Luke’s has done an outstanding job keeping the disease under control. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide the most proven methods of flu prevention for everyone who enters our facility.”

Like most hospitals across the state, St. Luke’s initiated visitor restrictions in January to help prevent further spread of flu, and to protect patients and staff.

While approximately 46,000 cases of influenza have been diagnosed across the country this flu season, 10,778 people tested positive in North Carolina since the season began October 2017.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that the 2017-2018 flu season peaked at 7.5 percent in early February (during week five) and is now on the decline. The overall hospitalization rate and all age-specific hospitalization rates are higher than the end-of-season hospitalization rates for 2014-2015.

Rothell encourages everyone to get a flu vaccine as the first line of defense. While it may not prevent the flu, it is a proactive way that can prevent complications, lessen hospitalizations and minimize the severity of the illness.

Hand washing with soap and water is the best mode of prevention, Rothell said, but the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer is helpful as well. She also recommends people cover their cough and keep their hands away from their eyes, nose and mouth.

“We apologize for any inconvenience these visitor restrictions may have caused, but protecting our patients is our first priority. We also want and need our caregivers to be healthy, on the job and capable of caring for sick patients,” Rothell said.

For more information on the flu, its symptoms, treatment, vaccines and misconceptions, go to the Centers for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.

– Submitted by Kathy Woodham