EASLEY — Baptist Easley Hospital has joined other hospitals in fighting the spread of this year’s strain of flu to their patients by imposing a voluntary program to reduce exposure.
Baptist Easley announced a voluntary program to reduce the exposure of patients in their facility to flu-like symptoms and a possible exacerbation of their current conditions. Other hospitals in Anderson, Greenville and Laurens counties have instituted similar voluntary restrictions as well.
“This is a voluntary restriction we are putting in place at Baptist Easley,” Public Relations Manager Allison Greene said of the restriction. “At this point, we’re asking no one under the age of 18 visit any patients and that visitors participate voluntarily on some other things.”
Caps, gowns, gloves and sanitizer are being made available for those visiting who would like to take the precautions. The hospital is also asking anyone displaying symptoms to curtail visitation as well.
“This is about prevention,” Greene went on to say. “We are not dealing with an outbreak, we’re just trying to monitor things differently and help prevent a problem before it starts.”
The voluntary restriction isn’t just for the health of patients but staff and other visitors as well.
“At this point it’s a joint effort with other hospitals in the area to prevent a problem from occurring,” explained Julie Chastain, infection preventionist with Baptist Easley. “This is a proactive response to the flu strain this year and we want to be uniform at all of the hospitals. It keeps us all on the same page and limits the exposure we’re trying to avoid for everyone.”
Despite the reports this is a voluntary participation on the part of visitors, Chastain also related some details about this flu season itself she found unsettling.
“It’s mandatory we report admissions for flu patients to DHEC (Department of Health and Environmental Control) and last year we had one case,” she said. “This year we’ve already had five admissions for inpatient treatment for the flu. That’s quite an increase over previous years.”
Officially flu season begins Oct. 1 and runs through the end of March. Between Oct. 1 and the Christmas season, the number of reported cases of flu through Baptist Easley’s emergency department were steady. In the two weeks following the holiday season, there was an increase to 34 cases in one week with 31 the next.
Since that time period there has been an average of 13 to 17 confirmed cases per week in the emergency department.
“With what appear to be escalating numbers, we just thought it would be smart,” Chastain said. “We feel like if we collaborate closely with other hospitals it may help prevent some future cases.”
The best advice Chastain and Greene had to offer?
“People should be washing their hands on a regular basis,” Greene said. “It’s the most effective way to prevent spreading the virus.”