OHRH issues restrictions on visitation due to flu

On Wednesday, Owensboro Health Regional Hospital put into place visitor restrictions to protect patients from flu.

The hospital sent a media advisory and posted flyers on doorways in an effort to curb the number of people coming into the facility.

Flu cases have spiked since Dec. 25, said Dariush Shafa, OHRH marketing specialist.

In December, 195 local patients tested positive for flu. By noon Wednesday — less than three days into the new year — 36 cases were diagnosed, Shafa said.

On Wednesday morning, 10 patients diagnosed with flu were receiving inpatient treatment at OHRH.

Dr. Gary Wilson, an OH internal medicine specialist, said visitation restrictions have been put into place before at the hospital.

“It depends completely on the individual situation,” Wilson said. “In a bad year, with lots of flu, it often happens.”

In December, the Kentucky Department of Public Health bumped up the state’s influenza activity level from regional to widespread.

The KDPH’s last weekly flu surveillance report is for the week ending Dec. 16. State officials said they are working to update the last two weeks of the year and expect to release that information Friday.

KDPH officials confirmed the number of statewide deaths attributed to flu is up to eight, an increase of seven deaths since mid-December.

Although hundreds of regional residents have been diagnosed with flu, they likely won’t show up on state reports. Daviess, Ohio and Muhlenberg counties use the rapid-diagnostic testing method, which is not reported to KDPH.

The state agency only reports lab-confirmed cases.

OHRH’s visitor restrictions will remain in place until further notice. They include the following:

• Visitors should include only those who are essential for the patient’s care and emotional well-being.

• No children under age 18 will be allowed to visit patients.

• Anyone with a cold, respiratory illness or flu symptoms should not visit patients.

Flu symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, muscle and body aches, headaches and fatigue.

OHRH’s visitation restrictions are voluntary. Wilson called it a “soft restriction.”

Under certain circumstances, it could become more strict.

“It’s a collaborative community approach,” Wilson said. “Please think about your loved ones and other people’s loved ones.”

Internally, OHRH has many precautions to protect staff and patients. Employees are vaccinated, or they must wear a mask in patient-care areas.

If employees exhibit flu-like symptoms, they don’t come to work.

OH Muhlenberg Community Hospital does not have visitor restrictions, Shafa said, but officials are monitoring the situation.

Ohio County Hospital is considering placing soft restrictions on visitation, said CeCe Robinson, Ohio County Healthcare spokeswoman.

Inpatient admissions because of flu remains relatively low in comparison to higher activity in the health system’s clinics, where some precautions are in place.

“Outpatient clinic restrictions include segregating flu-like illnesses as opposed to noninfectious illnesses, offering masks to patients in lobbies and ready access to hand sanitizers and tissues,” Robinson said.

It is not too late to get a flu shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu season lasts into February and beyond.

The vaccine takes about two weeks to activate. In the meantime, it can provide partial immunity, making symptoms less severe.

“Partial immunity is better than none,” Shafa said.

With the rapid spread of flu across the state, hand hygiene is especially important, the CDC reports. Wash hands often with soap and water. If they are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com