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Howard Hospital Implements Visitor Restrictions for Flu

Health Alert

WILLITS, CA -- In response to increasing rates of influenza and other seasonal illnesses across the nation, Frank Howard Memorial Hospital (HMH) has implemented temporary visitor restrictions and is asking young or sick visitors to stay away from the hospital unless necessary. 

Effective Monday, January 9, HMH is asking the public to voluntarily limit hospital visits. "This is a precautionary measure to protect patients, visitors and staff from spreading the flu and other upper respiratory illnesses," explains Daria Fletcher, infection prevention specialist at HMH. 

The request comes as the number of positive flu cases throughout the North Bay started increasing this winter. Last week, a Napa county resident became one of three flu deaths in the state as of December 30, 2016. Fletcher says imposing flu restrictions are just one of the many steps the hospital is taking to protect the hospital’s patients and the public.

For those who are visiting the hospital while the flu restrictions are in effect, HMH is requesting that: 
• Visitors must check in at the main lobby registration, nurse’s station or ER registration desk and will be asked about flu-like symptoms before they are allowed to visit patients. 
• Visitors should be at least 13 years and older to minimize patient exposure to children who are at higher risk for transmission of viral infections and to protect children from getting sick. Exceptions may be made for dire situations. 
• Individuals who aren't feeling well with symptoms such as fever and cough shouldn't visit hospitalized patients. If they have these symptoms but need to use the hospital’s services, they will be asked to wear a mask. 
• All hospital visitors should wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel when entering and leaving a patient room.
• Everyone should cough or sneeze into their arm, shoulder or tissue to reduce the spread of germs. 
Flu cases usually peak from December through February and may continue into May, according to public health officials. Given this, these safety measures at HMH will be in effect until further notice. 

John Glyer, MD, family medicine physician at Redwood Medical Clinic says it’s not too late to get vaccinated. “The flu vaccine this year is a good match. Vaccination and proper hand-washing is the best way to protect yourself from the flu and stop it from spreading,” he shares. 

Flu symptoms to look out for include a fever and chills, muscle or body aches, as well as a cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and fatigue. Colds, on the other hand, are usually milder than flu symptoms, and come with a runny or stuffy nose without a fever.

Those sick from the virus should stay home until they’re free of symptoms for 24 hours. “Patients come to us when they are not well, and exposing them to the flu does not help their outcome. So this is the best way to protect our patients and also the public,” explains Fletcher.

Fletcher advises the public to wash their hands often and thoroughly and also avoid touching their eyes, their noses and mouths. Influenza kills roughly 36,000 Americans a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Flu vaccinations are available in the Redwood Medical Clinic, located at 3 Marcela Drive in Willits, in front of the hospital. They are open Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome. For more information or to make an appointment, call (707) 459-6115.