Flu season has arrived

- If you see staff at Wayne Memorial Hospital wearing protective masks, don't be alarmed, say hospital officials.

"The masks are a precaution and are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) during the flu season," explained Kay Daley, RN/Infection Control. During the influenza (flu) season, which generally runs from Oct. 1 through March 31 of the following year, Daley said Wayne Memorial Hospital takes many steps to protect its patients, staff and visitors.

"Each year, the strains of influenza may be different from the last year, which is why we urge people to be vaccinated annually," she continued, "and, at the same time, we revisit our visitation rules and public information pieces, such as flyers and posters, to make sure we are addressing the right symptoms to keep our community safe."

Wayne Memorial has campaigned heavily this year for all of its staff, particularly its clinical staff, to be vaccinated against the flu. And if they're not vaccinated, all staff is required to wear a mask within six feet of patient care areas.

"Even if you don't have the flu, if you come into contact with someone who does, you can bring it into a patient's room or your home," said Daley.

Wayne Memorial's Employee Health Nurse Cindy Lazorack, RN, and the hospitals Director of Patient Care Services, Jim Pettinato, RN, would like to see at least 90 percent of the staff vaccinated against the flu.

Influenza, a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with chronic health conditions are at high risk for serious flu complications.

This season's flu vaccine will protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the season. This includes an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and one or two influenza B viruses, depending on the flu vaccine.

"One strain we are dealing with at the moment is a variation of the norovirus," said Daley. "It's called a 'super spreader' because it's extremely easy to spread and has a short immunity life. You can become 'reinfected' within two weeks. It causes stomach cramping, diarrhea and nausea."

The hospital is asking anyone with flu or flu-like symptoms – coughing, fever, sore throat, diarrhea, nausea — to please visit on another day when they are better.

The bottom line, Daley reiterated, is simple, "If you don't want yourself or others to get sick, get vaccinated."

Vaccines are available from healthcare providers, Wayne Memorial Home Health and Wayne/Pike Area Agencies on Aging, some pharmacies and community health centers such as Wayne Memorial Community Health Centers. For more information, visit www.wmh.org.