Flu outbreak strains Wilson Medical Center admissions

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Wilson Medical Center is experiencing significant delays in patient admissions due to an increase in the flu and respiratory illnesses. And hospital officials are asking prospective patients to visit their family doctor or use local clinics for all health conditions that don’t require emergency care.

“We would like to ask our citizens to determine best place to seek care for non-life threatening emergencies and ask our community to evaluate their health care needs at this time” Wilson Medical Center CEO Bill Caldwell said in a statement.

Wilson Medical Center encourages those who are sick and need to seek non-emergency care to call 1-800-424-DOCS for information on primary care and walk-in clinics.

Visitor restrictions are still in place due to the sharp rise in the number of flu cases in the community. Those restrictions not only protect patients but visitors and the community as a whole, officials said.

Children ages 12 and under are not allowed as visitors and anyone showing signs of respiratory issues cannot visit either. Hospital officials say if someone must visit the hospital under those conditions, he or she will be required to a wear a face mask to prevent the spread of germs.

Chanda Newsome, Wilson Medical Center’s infection control and prevention coordinator, said the hospital tested more than 100 patients for the flu during the first week of January. About 15 percent of those cases tested positive for influenza.

She said the influx of flu cases isn’t zeroing in on a particular age. Medical providers are seeing flu patients from less than 1 year old to those in their 80s.

“Restrictions remain in place as our numbers continue to increase,” she said. “Many of our admissions are due to influenza-like illnesses.”

Newsome said it’s not too late to get a flu shot. It takes two weeks for the body to build resistance to the flu once the flu shot is given.

Statewide, there have been 20 flu-related deaths this season, seven of which occurred during a one-week period over the Christmas holiday, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Ten of the deaths occurred in patients ages 65 and older; six patients were between the ages of 50-64; two were between the ages of 25-49 and two were between the ages of 5-17.

Here are some tips to protect yourself against the spread of flu and other viruses:

• Stay home when sick until fever-free for at least 24 hours.

• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.

• Wash hands frequently with soap and water.