Oakwood provides tips for flu prevention

In the wake of widespread flu activity across the nation, officials at Oakwood Healthcare are reinforcing infection control guidelines among staff, volunteers and visitors and reminding everyone to do their part to help prevent the spread of the virus.

“Oakwood has a multi-level plan in place to prevent the flu from spreading among patients, visitors and employees,” said Sara Atwell, Oakwood’s Chief Quality and Patient Safety Officer. “We will continue to reiterate that plan and all necessary precautions against the flu for all individuals within our institutions.”

Those precautions include:

• Providing easily accessible alcohol based hand sanitizers throughout the hospital
• Limiting risk and exposure to patients and employees by keeping an eye out for sick visitors
• Minimizing face-to-face and close contact with people who are coughing or appear otherwise ill
• Providing flu caddies at each acute care site that include masks, gloves, tissues and other alcohol-based products
• Ensuring staff and patients are protected with access to the appropriate masks, gloves and gowns to stop any droplets from getting into the air that may contain the flu
• Extended and weekend hours at several urgent care and healthcare clinics across the Oakwood system
• Heightened awareness in our Emergency Departments with appropriate triage, isolating, testing, treatment and hospitalization if warranted

“These are not new precautions. We are merely reinforcing the protocols we practice every day,” said Atwell.
Proper infection control begins outside of the emergency room, medical clinic or hospital, however. Rama Thyagarajan, MD, said everyone can do their part to prevent the spread of influenza and other viruses by following a few common sense practices: washing hands frequently, covering their coughs or sneezes, discarding tissue after they use them, avoiding prolonged contract with sick people, and staying home if they are sick. The best way to avoid getting the flu is to get a flu shot, she added.

“The three most important steps in combating the flu are getting vaccinated, preventing the spread of germs and taking prescribed antiviral drugs if necessary,” said Dr. Thyagarajan. “We must reinforce these three basic actions when talking about or dealing with flu prevention.”

The flu can share some symptoms with the common cold, but differ in their severity. Fevers are rare in a cold, but common with flu. They can exceed 102 degrees, and persist three or four days. Headaches and body aches are common with the flu—and they can be severe—but are rare in the common cold. Fatigue is another flu indicator; it is possible to experience fatigue with a cold, but it is much more common with influenza and it can last up to two or three weeks—long after other symptoms subside. Also watch for chest discomfort or shortness of breath—particularly if it is severe.