According to recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for the first time in its history of reporting, the US is experiencing widespread flu activity in every part of the continental U.S.
Since flu season monitoring began on Oct. 1, flu activity has risen sharply to nearly 42 people per 100,000. Flu deaths have also been elevated and as of Jan. 26, stand at 9.1 percent.
With what could be another 9-12 weeks of flu season still to come, flu prevention efforts are more important than ever, especially for those with already compromised immune systems such as the elderly, pregnant women, children and those already in the hospital.
If you or a family member plan to visit a hospital this flu season, be sure to take precautions to keep yourself – and others – safe. Even if you show no symptoms of illness, the flu virus and other infections can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours, increasing your chances of self-contamination and/or spreading the virus to others.
When it comes to reducing the prevalence of these healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), hand hygiene is key. As one of the most serious, yet preventable threats to patient safety in healthcare facilities, HAI prevention through proper hand hygiene is a top concern among healthcare institutions
If you do plan to visit the hospital, here are some tips for preventing the spread and acquirement of an infection:
- If you are exhibiting symptoms of the flu, stay home! According to the CDC, most people are at peak contagiousness in the three to four days after becoming sick, but you may be able to infect others from one day before, to up to seven days after developing symptoms.
- Follow hospital hand hygiene protocols similar to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) “5 Moments for Hand Hygiene,” or Canadian 4 Moments adpated by Public Health Ontario, that healthcare workers are encouraged to follow, hospital visitors should also keep these moments in mind:
- When entering a patient room, apply hand sanitizer to decrease transient bacteria and reduce the risk of cross-contamination between visitor and patient. Most hospital facilities have hand sanitizer stations throughout hallways and outside of patient rooms.
- Clean hands after exposure to bodily fluids, including your own. This can be something as innocent as a sneeze. This will protect not only the patient, but the healthcare workers caring for the patient and help to limit the spread of infection-causing pathogens both in the room and between rooms.
- Clean hands after touching a patient or any of the patient’s immediate surroundings, such as the patient’s clothes or gown, hospital bed, exam chair, remote, call button, etc.
- Clean hands after touching any object in the patient’s room, such as high-touch surfaces such as door handles, bed railings, chairs, countertops, etc.