By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A dangerous strain of the flu that is hitting young people particularly hard this year has prompted a local hospital to restrict visitation.
Princeton Community Hospital announced Thursday that due to the large number of adults and children being admitted to the hospital with the flu and other respiratory illnesses, the public is being asked not to visit the hospital unless absolutely necessary. “Visitation will be restricted to those not exhibiting signs or symptoms of respiratory illnesses,” hospital spokesman Richard Hypes said. “Should you enter the hospital showing respiratory symptoms, you will be asked to wear a mask.”
The most common strain of the flu being seen in Mercer County is the H1N1, also known as the 2009 pandemic strain that was formerly referred to as “swine flu,” Cindy Belcher, an infection prevention and control officer for PCH, said.
Belcher said the 18 to 35 year-old age group is being particularly impacted by the H1N1 strain. But the hospital also is seeing young children and older citizens with flu-like symptoms and respiratory illnesses as well. She said some have been admitted due to pneumonia.
“We are in the season,” Belcher said. “It is not too late to get vaccinated. Through February is part of the peak season in this area.”
The number of confirmed influenza cases in Mercer County has doubled since last week, Sandy Davis, RN BSN with the Mercer County Health Department, said.
“It’s not an outbreak at this moment and we are not worried about it being an epidemic or anything like that,” Davis said. “But we are still encouraging people to get their flu shots. If you get it (the flu vaccine), it still takes about two weeks for it to take effect. But we are finding that people who are getting a flu shot aren’t getting as sick. So we are just hoping people will continue to get their flu shot.”
Davis said the majority of the influenza cases reported to date in Mercer County are the H1N1, or 2009 pandemic strain.
Although the Mercer County Health Department will begin moving next week into their new building at Green Valley, Davis said health officials will continue to administer the flu vaccine during the move. But it will be administered at the existing health department site located at the St. Lukes Professional Building near the Behavioral Health Pavilion, which is also the old St. Luke’s Hospital. Once the health department move is completed, the flu vaccine will then be administered at the new Green Valley site.
Although Bluefield Regional Medical Center also is seeing an increase in flu cases, there has not been an increase in flu admissions. And there are no restrictions for the public in place at this time, hospital spokeswoman Becky Ritter said.
Ritter said most of the influenza cases have been handled at BRMC’s emergency room.
She said the hospital has several personal protective equipment kiosks located throughout the building and hospital entrances that the public is encouraged to use. The kiosks contain hand sanitizer, face masks and gloves.
— Contact Charles Owens at email@example.com