Hospital, schools battle flu outbreak

Ed Bray, 14-year custodian with the Barbourville City School system, sprays down the tabletops in one of the elementary school classrooms with a very strong disinfectant. This daily routine includes everything from water fountains, to sinks, bathrooms and door knobs.
Ed Bray, 14-year custodian with the Barbourville City School system, sprays down the tabletops in one of the elementary school classrooms with a very strong disinfectant. This daily routine includes everything from water fountains, to sinks, bathrooms and door knobs.

Efforts taken to keep virus from spreading

By BOBBIE POYNTER

bpoynter@mountainadvocate.com

The battle against the flu has hit Knox County.  Flu activity is expected to continue and perhaps even pick up in the coming weeks, and medical facilities have already seen their fair share of infected patients.

Flu protocal is now in effect at the Knox hospital. “During the flu season, we limit the number of visitors to the in-patient care areas. We also limit the age of visitors to 14 and older because the very young and very old are more likely to develop the virus if they come into contact with it. Also school-aged children are more likely to spread the germ,“ said Jamie Wilder, Infection Control Nurse.

According to Wilder, compared to the number of positive flu cases treated in December 2013, there has been a much greater number of patients seen at the hospital in December 2014.

Generally, hospital patients who test positive for the flu will be discharged and sent with home with the appropriate medications. The exception would be an elderly patient or child with other health issues that need to be observed by hospital staff.

As an added precaution, masks, hand sanitizers and tissues are made available to patients and their guests in all of the patient waiting rooms and lobbies.

The hospital already boasts a high level of cleaning practices, but like any other business, during the flu season, hospital staff work hard to stem the spread of the virus.

“The Knox County Hospital always practices universal precautions. We treat everything as if it’s infectious or contagious,“ said Brenda Graham, Chief Nursing Officer at the Knox County Hospital.

The hospital’s waiting rooms are cleaned and disinfected routinely at the hospital. During the flu season added emphasis is placed on disinfecting the equipment and furniture in the waiting rooms, as well as entry and exit doors, handles, and handrails.

Hospital officials say that if staff members suspect a person has the flu, a mask will be provided to the patient. If the patient cannot wear or refuses a mask, the staff member will don his/her own mask.

“The most important thing you can do is to get the flu vaccine,“ said Graham. “The vaccination reduces symptoms and can help reduce the number of doctors’ visits and missed work and school days.

“Personally, you can help keep from spreading the flu by covering your cough, washing your hands often, and limiting your contact with other people as much as possible“ she added.

The flu virus is spread through droplets in the air when someone with the flu sneezes, coughs or even speaks. Symptoms virus can be varied. They can include a fever, cough, muscle or body aches, runny nose, sore throat, headaches, fatigue, or any combination of the symptoms.

“And if you do begin experiencing any flu symptoms, contact a physician immediately,“ said Graham. “Don’t go to work or school where you will be able to spread the disease.“

Both Knox County and Barbourville City school custodians spent the holiday break cleaning and disinfecting all the rooms in the school systems in preparation for the students’ return in January. During the flu season, special attention is paid to keyboards and doorknobs.

At the present time, Barbourville Independent schools are maintaining their normal attendance records.

“So far, so good,“ said Barbourville Independent Schools Superintendent Larry Warren. “We’re maintaining our average attendance right now, but we’ll continue to monitor it over the coming months.“

Warren said the schools will close their doors when absenteeism begins to affect the instructional process or when too many teachers are out. How long the doors will stay closed will depend on the circumstances at that time.

“ Our attendance on Monday after winter break was average for this time of the year,“ said Frank Shelton, Public Relations Director for Knox County Schools. “Like all other school districts, we are closely monitoring attendance and working with our school nurses to make sure we have a healthy student body. 

“Flu prevention begins at home and continues into the classroom.  We remind our parents to reinforce basic hygiene skills with their child, such as not touching your “t“ zone and constantly washing your hands with soap. Those are basic tips and skills that children and adults alike need to be reminded of this time of year.”

The Knox County Health Department currently has flu shots in stock for all age groups. Medicaid, Medicare Part B, and Private Pay is accepted. For specific information based on your individual situation, please contact the KCHD at 546-3486.