As the flu continues to spread in North Carolina, Iredell Memorial Hospital is responding to the challenge of treating those with serious symptoms, while protecting other patients from the virus.
Thursday, February 15, state health officials reported 17 new flu deaths in North Carolina, bringing the total of flu deaths this season to 165.
"We are going through masks more quickly than we did last year," said Emergency Department director Rhonda Ruppe. "We are also seeing a lot of patients use our convenience care services in the Emergency Department with flu symptoms."
Iredell Memorial Hospital has treated dozens of patients with flu-like symptoms. Between January 1 and February 11, the laboratory at Iredell Memorial Hospital processed 650 flu tests, with 138 positive results.
"While this is a busy year for the flu, it's still difficult to gauge the total impact the virus is having compared to previous years," said Iredell Health System Infection Prevention Director Pam Gill. "Last year we didn't impose guest restrictions until we saw a sharp increase in cases in late February. This year, we saw the need to implement restrictions in mid-January."
Iredell Health System is asking guests not to bring children 17 and under to visit patients in the hospital at this time. There are masks, hand sanitizer and tissues available at public entrances.
"We feel our emphasis on sanitation and the guest restrictions are working to help protect our patient population, despite the number of people with the flu who are coming to the hospital for help," said Gill.
Ruppe says anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms should stay vigilant and know when to seek medical help.
"If someone is having difficulty breathing, is dehydrated, not taking fluid, has an uncontrolled fever or is unresponsive, it's time to get to the hospital," said Ruppe.
Even though the flu season is well underway, it's still not too late to get vaccinated.
"For whatever reason, too many people choose not to get the flu shot," said Gill. "They may be afraid it may make them sick or heard of someone who had a bad experience. Yet, the evidence shows that the flu shot is the best tool we have to slow and prevent the spread of the virus."