H1N1 - Hospitals Take Precautions
November 13, 2009
H1N1: Hospitals take precautions
Jen Marnowski written by: Chris Vanderveen Date last updated: 10/3/2009 7
H1N1 SPECIAL SECTION
DENVER - Joan Ivaska can't emphasize it enough. Just because you have flu-like symptoms doesn't mean you need to rush off to a hospital.
"Try to manage your symptoms at home. Make sure you're eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of fluids and staying in bed," said the head of Exempla St. Joseph's Infection Management and Control division.
But when patients do inevitably show up at St. Joseph Hospital just east of downtown, she wants to make sure that the highly contagious disease doesn't spread to other visitors and staff members.
"We're going to have to adjust accordingly to better manage our care," Ivaska said on Friday.
Already there are signs posted outside of the NICU telling people that visitors under 18 can't come in. By the middle part of the month, the hospital is likely to implement the same policy in the labor and delivery area. Pregnant women, studies have shown, are particularly vulnerable to the virus.
"We're playing it week by week right now," Ivaska said.
When people show up at the waiting area of the hospital's emergency room, they are immediately asked if they're experiencing any flu-like symptoms. If the answer is yes, a staff member immediately gives them a mask.
During the lunch hour, we saw patient after patient putting on a mask. "It's been busy," commented Ivaska. Of all of the flu going around right now, Ivaska told us "about 99.5% of it is H1N1."
"We're looking at asking people if you are sick, please don't come and visit. Postpone your visit until you are well," she added.
St. Joseph Hospital is hardly alone in this. Children's Hospital, for example, is prohibiting visitors under the age of 13 from visiting the patient floors. Other hospitals are either doing similar things right now, or considering limiting visitor access in the near future.
Ivaska said St. Joseph Hospital is also considering changing its procedures in its ER waiting room. "We're looking at ways to segregate our waiting rooms and keeping flu patients away from other patients," she said.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Arapahoe and Denver counties are seeing the highest number of hospitalizations within the state. In September, Arapahoe County saw 63 influenza-associated hospitalizations and Denver saw 67.
Doctors say only a small-fraction of people who show up at their offices or at a hospital ER will ever need to be hospitalized however.
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