By Alton Mitchell
The present flu season is one that is taking its toll on Americans as last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially announced this year’s flu season had reached the level to be classified as an epidemic. The widespread outbreak is now leaving local hospitals seeking options to limit exposure to the illness that is spreading like wildfire across East Alabama and West Georgia. The battle has now resulted in local hospitals limiting visitors to some of their facilities.
East Alabama Medical Center operates two facilities in our area. Its main campus in Opelika and East Alabama Medical Center- Lanier Hospital in Valley. On last Wednesday the hospital announced that it would be taking steps to implement visitor restrictions to combat the growing flu outbreak in east Alabama.
On Saturday those restrictions went into effect. EAMC announced a flu alert and posted various signs on its facilities. Those restrictions included not permitting people with flu like symptoms to visit. Symptoms included items such as cough, sore throat, body aches, and fever. The hospital will still allow healthy individuals to visit, but urged caution to include washing hands before and after visiting a patient at the hospitals and to ensure your cover your cough with a tissue or sleeve.
Visits to the hospital will be limited to healthy, immediate family members who are ages 12 and older only. The hospital also announced that it will exercise the right to limit the number of visitors and the length of visits during this time period.
On Monday similar measures were put in place a Midtown Medical Center in Columbus, Georgia. The hospital services residents of Chambers County for level II trauma emergencies. The hospital announced that no individuals will be permitted in the hospital if they display flu-like or gastrointestinal illness signs. No visitors under the age of 12 will be allowed in the hospital, and visitors to the hospital will be limited to only two adult visitors per patient. The restrictions will be in place at three of Columbus Regional’s hospitals to include Midtown Medical Center, Northside Medical Center, and the John B. Amos Cancer Center.
As of Monday, Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center in Lagrange had announced no visitor restrictions. Several other hospitals across Alabama and Georgia have announced visitor restrictions in the higher than normal flu outbreak season.
Symptoms of the flu can include fever, feeling feverish, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle and body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea. The CDS has declared this years outbreak an epidemic as widespread cases are now being reported in every state except for Hawaii. The flu season has also claimed the lives of a total of 20 children nationwide. There is no official end date to flu season in the United States however, the outbreaks of the bug usually reach the peak between January and February. The season normally ends by May.