VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital is currently receiving a higher than usual volume of patients in the Emergency Department. This is causing extended wait times and in some cases diversion to other area hospitals. This is not just an issue for VCU Health CMH but for other hospitals across central Virginia. A principle reason for the high volume is from a very active flu season that is occurring in Virginia and all across the United States.
Gayle Sutton, RN, BSN, CIC, Infection Preventionist at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, stated, “I think it is important first for the public to understand the difference between the flu and a cold. A cold often presents with a sore throat that lasts up to 48 hours, followed by a runny nose, cough and congestion. Fever is not usual in adults but more common in children. The symptoms usually last about a week and the person is contagious for the first three days.”
She continued, “Flu also presents with a sore throat, but other symptoms include fever, head and muscle aches, congestion and cough. Vomiting and diarrhea are also associated with some strains of flu. These symptoms usually improve after a few days, but the person may feel a general malaise for some time. Flu can be dangerous for people who have a weakened immune system or people who are very young or elderly. It also poses a risk for people with pulmonary or heart problems.”
Sutton recommends people who expect they may have flu to follow up with their primary care physician first and as soon as possible. Sutton explained that if they come through the Emergency Department at VCU Health CMH, they are put on droplet precaution. The flu is a wet molecule that travels three feet and drops, so anyone entering their room is required to wear a mask.
Hospital visitation is discouraged if a family member or friend has the flu. Masks are available upon entry into the Hospital/Emergency Department as well as hand sanitizer. VCU Health CMH's incidence of flu admission this year has been high.
She recommends people who believe they have the flu should stay home, get plenty of rest and follow physician orders regarding returning to work, resuming school, etc.
Good hand washing is still considered the most important defense against the flu; while the vaccine has been proven to have only 10% effectiveness against the strains this season it is still recommended and takes at least two weeks to be effective. It is still not too late to receive a flu shot. The CDC recommends vaccination prior to the flu season in October, but states that it’s not too late and urges people to receive the vaccine through January.