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Flu Season Hits Full Swing

To decrease the spread of the virus, the medical center has implemented a strict visitation policy not allowing visitors under the age of 12 and requesting anyone who enters the facility who has not had a flu shot to wear a mask.

January 15, 2018

January 15, 2018 – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Kansas and Oklahoma are two of the 26 States currently reporting high levels of Influenza-like illness. With cases of influenza nearing epidemic numbers across most of the Nation, healthcare providers are bracing for what could be one of the hardest-hitting flu seasons in recent years.

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“We really didn’t start getting hit until the very end of December. Now we’ve had 24 patients test positive for influenza in January and 16 within the last four days,” said Tami Eiselt, South Central Kansas Medical Center’s Infection Control Nurse.

The majority of the medical center’s patients have been able to be treated within the ER and released home, however some are being admitted after displaying signs of severe dehydration.

“It’s more than we had last year, and it’s earlier. We have seen numerous patients, where the family members will all have it,” said Tracy Austin, SCKMC’s Director of Nursing.

Of those admitted to the hospital, several have been children under two years of age.

“It really is going to hit the elderly and infants a lot harder.  They are going to be the two groups who are more severe,” explained Bonnie Schieber, Registered Nurse and SCKMC’s ER Manager.

Influenza or “the flu” is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms that usually start suddenly, including: fever (it’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in young children than in adults.

“If you are sick with it stay home. Do not go out in public, do not go outside because you are highly contagious and all you are going to do is spread your germs to where everybody else can get them,” Schieber said.

To decrease the spread of the virus, the medical center has implemented a strict visitation policy not allowing visitors under the age of 12 and requesting anyone who enters the facility who has not had a flu shot to wear a mask.

“The flu is transmitted via droplet so if you are coughing you don’t realize how much is actually coming out. That is why they want you to wear the mask. It’s keeping you from inhaling those droplets and getting the flu,” Austin said.

 In addition, staff is requesting patients who are experiencing flu-like symptoms wear a mask.

“We are asking that all patients that present to the ER for flu like symptoms wear a mask that we are providing. It is to protect others from the germs. We are asking for their cooperation with trying to keep the germ level low,” Schieber said.

If you have avoided the flu so far, the SCKMC staff recommends a few simple tips to decrease your chances of catching it.

“Wash your hands a lot and don’t touch the “T-zone”, your eyes, nose and mouth,” Eiselt said.

The medical center team also says it’s not too late to get your flu shot. Eiselt began providing flu vaccinations to SCKMC staff and volunteers in October, and has given over 200 vaccinations this season.

“If you do get the flu shot you are much less susceptible to getting the flu, and it will lessen the actual effects of the flu if you get it,” Austin said.

Pictured: South Central Kansas Medical Center Infection Control Nurse, Tami Eiselt administers the flu vaccine to co-worker, Kelli Howard.