Flu oubreaks push Stanislaus County hospitals to take precautions

kcarlson@modbee.comJanuary 15, 2014 

Influenza outbreaks are widespread in the San Joaquin Valley, prompting hospitals and other institutions to put precautionary measures in place.

Emanuel Medical Center of Turlock has changed its visiting rules. People going to see patients in hospital rooms are restricted to ages 15 and older. The concern is that children younger than 15 could spread the flu bug or be exposed to patients who are sick with influenza, Emanuel spokeswoman Pennie Rorex said.

“We are trying to protect the wellness of patients, staff and visitors,” Rorex said.

Emanuel’s spokeswoman said the hospital’s emergency department has been extremely busy and many people with severe flu symptoms have been admitted for care.

Other hospitals in the Modesto area have instituted visitor restrictions as well, said Dr. John Walker, Stanislaus County health officer. “Our hospitals are very busy and very full.”

Walker noted that the state Department of Public Health reported last week that influenza had increased from regional outbreaks and was at epidemic levels in California. Health officials have advised the public to take precautions because the predominant flu strain is H1N1, the virus that caused the 2009 pandemic.

Craig Baize, a spokesman for Sutter-affiliated hospitals in the region, said Memorial Medical Center in Modesto has visitor restrictions for its birthing center. Other rules are two visitors per patient in hospital rooms at Memorial; visitors less than 16 years old are discouraged. The precautions are designed to prevent flu exposure to visitors or vulnerable patients, Baize said.

This week, a federal judge took the unusual step of calling a weeklong suspension of criminal cases involving Fresno County Jail inmates set for proceedings at the U.S. District Court in Fresno. According to The Fresno Bee, a flu outbreak in the county jail had resulted in one inmate death, and a second inmate brought to the court last week was sick with H1N1.

In Stanislaus County, Walker advised residents to stay home from work or school if they feel sick. Besides flu vaccinations available from physicians or pharmacies, other precautions to limit the spread of flu are hand hygiene and coughing or sneezing into your elbow.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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