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Gear Up for Flu Season

Gear Up for Flu Season

The News-Item

September 23, 2009

In lieu of a vaccine, Shamokin Area Community Hospital (SACH) is using information as an inoculation against H1N1 Influenza A, also known as swine flu.

The hospital has educated staff and faculty, and is hoping to inform the public about H1N1 in hopes of preventing a major outbreak in the region during peak flu season.

In Danville, Geisinger Medical Center (GMC) has removed toys from waiting rooms. The hospital has also begun quizzing patients as they come in, asking them flu screening questions like “Do you have a fever with a cough or sore throat?” If the answer’s yes, the patient gets a mask and is moved into a room and away from the common waiting area.

Sunbury Community Hospital has emergency patients with flu-like symptoms enter the emergency room through the ambulance entrance, where they’re asked to don a mask.

Only one case so far

SACH has only seen one case of H1N1 since the flu debuted back in March, but that hasn’t stopped the hospital from implementing a rigorous educational program for faculty and staff, according to Corrine Klose, vice president of patient services, and Elizabeth Duell, infection prevention manager.

“We’ve … done educational programs for our staff here,” Klose said, noting that H1N1 is a flu, just like seasonal flu.

Recognition of symptoms of both the regular flu and the H1N1 virus is important, according to Klose.

“(H1N1) is a serious respiratory illness. The way to recognize it is a way to stop the spread of it. Nurses, secretarial, administrative, top to bottom,” every staff member at SACH underwent the H1N1 training, Klose said. “We’re hoping that by doing that, we impress upon the staff the importance of hand washing, respiratory etiquette, like the use of tissues, or coughing into your elbow or sleeve if you don’t have a tissue, what to do if you’re sick and the importance of vaccinations.”

Presently, there are health-alert signs at registration areas to help identify patients that have symptoms.

“We can ID them right away, give them a mask,” Duell said of the initial step the hospital would take to cut down on the risk of H1N1 spreading within SACH walls.

“We give out brochures (on swine flu), which we’ve also given out to schools. Presently, we have a HEPA filter in the ER waiting room area, to help with air quality,” Duell added.

Basically, the hospital is aiming for recognition of symptoms and prevention measures within the public. There’s also information on the hospital’s Web site “so people from the general public can click on that and get information,” according to Jessica Trell, director of development and public relations at SACH. All the information on the Web site comes directly from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Klose noted.

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