Flu season fading away

Flu season is coming to an end.

That’s good news for health care providers, local schools and businesses that have seen more flu activity compared with last season.

On Sunday, Schneck Medical Center lifted restrictions on patient visitation instituted in mid-December to keep the virus from spreading.

“I have been tracking flu activity in our area, and it has decreased significantly,” said Anita Root, infection preventionist at Schneck.

Root said hospital staff continue to encourage people who are ill to not visit others and will provide face masks to those who exhibit cold or flu symptoms, especially coughing or sneezing.

“Our goal is to protect our patients and also provide good customer service,” she said. “This decision was made with both of those goals in mind.”

Officially, flu season ends March 31, and it’s not too late to get a flu vaccine, since it takes two weeks after receiving the medication to become fully immune, Root said.

There is a small amount of flu activity around, but most of the cases the hospital is seeing now are a strain of influenza B. People who received a flu vaccine this year should be protected from it, she added.

The Seymour hospital has confirmed 146 cases of flu through its rapid testing method since flu season began in late November, but that’s just a small portion of the flu actually in the county, Root said.

“Not every symptomatic person may receive a rapid flu test,” Root said. “And I can only speak for what we’ve seen at the hospital, not physician offices and other clinics.”

Root said the number of inpatient admissions with the flu had been on the rise earlier, and that is why the hospital began limiting the number of people visiting patients.

“We did not want visitors to come here and catch the flu or take it home to their family,” Root said.

That’s still the case, even with the declining number of flu cases at the hospital and in the community.

Root said if people are feeling ill and exhibiting flu symptoms, they should stay home from work or school and continue to practice good respiratory etiquette, including covering their cough or sneeze with a tissue, disposing of the tissue in a waste container and then cleaning their hands.

If tissues aren’t available, Root recommends people cough into their elbow to avoid getting germs on their hands.

“Good hygiene cannot be emphasized enough when considering any communicable disease,” she said.

Even though the hospital has seen a busier flu season this winter, Root said, she also thinks more people are getting the flu vaccine.

“I feel there is increased awareness of the need to obtain the vaccine,” she said. “Many places are making it convenient to obtain, and it is encouraged in order to promote wellness.”

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.