The flu season is visiting Savannah much sooner than expected.
St. Joseph’s/Candler officially implemented visitor restrictions, prohibiting anyone with flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough, sore, throat, body aches, and vomiting, from visiting the hospital.
Under these restrictions, only two people can visit a patient at a single time and children under 18 years old are only supposed to go to the hospital if they need to be treated, not to visit anyone.
“It started off to be a quiet flu season, but in the past last two months, we’ve been seeing it creep up in the number of influenza cases, “ said Lori Kinder, St. Joseph’s/Candler Infection Prevention and Control Manager.
According to their statistics, they’ve had 29 cases of the flu at Candler alone since November 15th.
Last year, by the end of December, they hadn’t seen a single case.
“Flu season starts officially October 1st and goes through April of each year, so you never know when you’re gonna have a rise of influenza within that time period” said Kinder, “Sometimes it’s early, sometimes it’s late.”
The reason they decided to enforce the restrictions is due to the percentage of cases. Kinder says whenever they exceed “the baseline” percentage for cases in the state of Georgia, they start to restrict visitors at the hospital, where immune systems are low and people are most vulnerable to catching the virus.
Among those most vulnerable are newborn babies in the special care and ICU units.
“In our particular population in special care nursery and the newborn ICU, our children are very very fragile and those types of viruses can affect them very adversely,” said Dr. Anthony Tackman, a neonatologist at Candler, “Any of them have, can end up on ventilators, on increase breathing support, there’s even been throughout the Southeast, there have been some fatalities.”
Tackman said it’s a dilemma because at the hospital, they “maintain a basic philosophy of keeping families together and promoting family togetherness,” but it’s simply not worth the risk.
They ask anyone who has cold or flu like symptoms to be patient and wait until the newborn babies are home to visit.
In addition, Kinder says they always encourage people to get vaccinated.
“There’s always does the flu vaccine work or not,” she said, “But if you get the flu vaccine it shows that if you do get a case of influenza, it’s usually milder if you’ve received your flu shot,”
If you’re not sure where to go to get one, you can search your location on https://vaccinefinder.org/.
In the meantime, Kinder says, “One of the major ways to prevent of any kind of infection is good hand washing.”