Flu brings patients to hospital

Published 12:48 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The flu season has brought an unusually high number of patients into the emergency department area of the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill, a release from the hospital cited last Wednesday.

The release comes after a Code Red Diversion Status was issued in the Central Virginia Region the evening of Jan. 22 and removed the morning of Jan. 23.

A diversion status, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) Alerting and Status System website, is defined as a hospital where “specific services are unavailable or are currently being utilized to maximum capacity. EMS units are advised to transport to another health care facility if possible for patients needing these specific services.”

The release cited that the hospital experienced “extended wait times and in some cases diversion to other area hospitals.”

The release noted that “this is not just an issue for VCU Health CMH, but for other hospitals across central Virginia.”

The release from the hospital cited flu as a cause of the activity.

“A principle reason for the high volume is from a very active flu season that is occurring in Virginia and all across the United States,” officials said in the release.

Gayle Sutton, RN, BSN, CIC, infection preventionist at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, stated in the release that differentiating between the common cold and the flu could be imperative for individuals and families in the area.

“A cold often presents with a sore throat that lasts up to 48 hours, followed by a runny nose, cough and congestion,” Sutton said. “Fever is not usual in adults but more common in children. The symptoms usually last about a week, and the person is contagious for the first three days.”

“Flu also presents with a sore throat, but other symptoms include fever, head and muscle aches, congestion and cough,” Sutton said. “Vomiting and diarrhea are also associated with some strains of flu. These symptoms usually improve after a few days, but the person may feel a general malaise for some time. Flu can be dangerous for people who have a weakened immune system or people who are very young or elderly. It also poses a risk for people with pulmonary or heart problems.”

Sutton encouraged participants to set appointments with primary care physicians as soon as possible.

For patients who do enter the emergency room, Sutton said they are placed on what is called a “droplet precaution.”

“The flu is a wet molecule that travels three feet and drops, so anyone entering their room is required to wear a mask,” Sutton said.

She discouraged hospital visits from members of the public if someone they know is being treated for the flu.

For those who believe they have the flu, Sutton recommends that people stay home from activities, get plenty of rest and follow their doctors’ orders regarding returning to those activities.

“Good hand washing is still considered the most important defense against the flu; while the vaccine has been proven to have only 10 percent effectiveness against the strains this season, it is still recommended and takes at least two weeks to be effective,” the release cited. “It is still not too late to receive a flu shot. The (Center for Disease Control) CDC recommends vaccination prior to the flu season in October but states that it’s not too late and urges people to receive the vaccine through January.”