02/23/06 — Experts -- If you are sick, stay at home

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Experts -- If you are sick, stay at home

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 23, 2006 1:52 PM

Several cases of the flu have been reported by local health officials, who are reminding the public to keep up preventive measures to avoid contracting it.

At Wayne Memorial Hospital, the rapid influenza test is administered as a quick way to diagnose the flu. Over the past four days, six people have tested positive, said Ronnie Syverson, infection control practitioner.

Syverson said efforts are being made to encourage staff as well as the community to practice healthy behaviors.

"In-house, there's certainly things that we're doing," he said. "We're wanting to make sure our staff takes the appropriate preventive measures when we interact with patients."

Staff members typically wear gloves or face masks, he said. Frequent handwashing is also encouraged, with sanitary wipes provided in the hospital lobby.

In other public areas such as the emergency department, tissues are available to patients and visitors who are symptomatic, he said, with trash cans accessible to dispose of them.

As for the general public, he said the best advice is for people with flu-like symptoms not to visit patients at the hospital.

"That'd also be true for nursing homes and facilities where there could be a transmission of flu," he added.

The emphasis is on trying to prevent a countywide outbreak of sporadic flu cases, he said.

"We're trying to decrease it as much as possible. If someone is sick, stay out of public areas, stay home. There's still going to be some people sick, but we can prevent many more people from getting sick," he said.

None of this means there is cause for alarm, Syverson said.

"I think by responding rapidly with this information, we can keep it at bay, keep the numbers down so we don't have a lot of people sick," he said. "We were in a push for flu vaccinations in the early part of the season or before it hit. It's almost too late to get a flu shot."

At Goldsboro Pediatrics, Dr. David Tayloe said his office is seeing an occasional child with the flu, but there have been no complications so far.

Health Director James Roosen said the local situation reflects what is going on statewide, where there has been an increase in the number of influenza-like illnesses.

That doesn't mean it has to continue, though.

"People did a great job back in the 2004-05 flu season when we didn't have vaccines available," Syverson said. Following good habits like frequent handwashing, use of tissues and avoiding close contact with those at-risk proved effective.

"In doing so, we prevented an outbreak that year, (proving) it wasn't truly the vaccine that year that impacted their getting the flu, but their behavior. If we still implement these safeguards, hopefully we can prevent people from getting sick."