Friday, January 5, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Last month, Loyola University Medical Center tested more than 1,200 patients experiencing flu-like symptoms such as coughing, headaches and fever — 357 of whom had a lab-confirmed case of influenza, according to Dr. Jorge Parada, the medical director of Loyola’s infection prevention and control program.
During the Christmas week the number of seasonal flu cases at Loyola increased to a 4-year high” of 179 confirmed cases in a single week and the surge may not be over,” according to a statement the hospital released on Jan. 5.
Parada said in the statement that, although the “season started earlier than the last two years, […] we’ve had more confirmed cases than at any point since 2014.
“Currently more than half of all the flu tests we send to the lab are returning positive,” he said. “In the last two weeks, we have diagnosed as many people with flu as we did in the first 12 weeks of the flu season, which began [Oct. 1].”
Parada advised area residents to get flu shots, and to thoroughly wash and/or sanitize their hands many times throughout the day.
On Dec. 27, the Illinois Department of Public Health recommended that hospitals implement more restrictive protocols for patients.
The next day, Loyola implemented its own flu visitor restriction policy that “requires all visitors with respiratory symptoms (cough, sneezing, runny nose) to wear surgical masks at all times while at the medical center,” the hospital’s statement read. “Visitors are also limited to those ages 18 and older.”
In addition, Loyola has required all of its employees, students, volunteers and vendors to get flu shots — a protocol that the hospital has followed for nine years. They were “immunized during a three-day emergency response drill, which allowed for maximizing preparedness training while providing flu vaccines.”
Parada said that the hospital achieved a 100 percent participation rate in the drill, “with 97 percent of staff receiving the vaccine and only a few exemptions in a record amount of time.”
Parada advised those who have been diagnosed with the flu to “rest, drink fluids and take over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen as needed.” He also advised those who have the flu to stay home “for the protection of your community as you are highly contagious and will spread the illness to others.
“Your inconvenient bug may be a life-threatening illness to the very young, very old or chronically ill people that you encounter,” Parada said, adding those who “vomit or eliminate blood, become disoriented or suffer extreme fatigue, call your doctor or go to an immediate care center.”
Last month, data released by the Cook County Department of Public Health showed that for the last several weeks of 2017, flu cases in Bellwood, Broadview, Maywood and Melrose Park have spiked.
But the area zip code that experienced the greatest increase in flu-related emergency visits among its residents was 60141, which is where Hines VA Hospital is located.
According to county data, Hines had no reported cases of flu-related emergency visits in weeks 46 through 50. But in week 51, visits increased by an overwhelming 25 percent, the data shows — the highest spike in the county during that period. VFP
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