NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – The flu epidemic has turned deadly in western Massachusetts and Cooley Dickinson Health Care has implemented temporary restrictions on hospital visitations to try and prevent the spread of the flu virus.
22News learned that two patients have died from the flu in Northampton. Infection prevention nurse Linda Riley told 22News that two older adult patients have died from the flu at Cooley Dickinson Hospital.
Riley said more than 30 patients have been admitted because of the flu. To prevent the spread of the flu, Cooley Dickinson has changed its visitation policy.
Riley told 22News in her 13-years’ experience in infection prevention, the hospital has only changed their visitation policy twice, which shows how serious they are about preventing additional cases.
“The volume of patients, the number of people we’re seeing in our ED, the number of people that are getting admitted, the number of people who are going to the doctors offices, so you take all of that stuff together and then doing what’s best for our patients and community,” Riley said.
In a release sent to 22News, Riley added that the hospital is taking these precautions to limit the number of visitors.
“This year is about the severity of the flu, the fact that it is particularly dangerous for the young children and seniors, and the widespread activity of flu across our region,” Riley said.
Flu spreads easily. You can get sick standing three feet away from a flu patient who coughs or sneezes. Under the new visitation restrictions, no kids under 14, visitors must wash their hands before and after visits, stay home if you’re sick, and the hospital is asking patients to come to appointments alone, unless accompanied by a caregiver.
Similar policies have been adopted by Springfield’s Mercy Medical Center.
“My wife and I have had flu shots, so we try to be extra careful and washing our hands all the time and just being as careful as we can,” said Michael Klare of Northampton.
Despite the flu vaccine not being as effective this year, it’s still your best protection.
Connecticut has reported 32 flu-related deaths, so far.
The following restrictions are in place at Cooley Dickinson Health Care:
- No children under the age of 14 are allowed to visit hospitalized patients. In the Childbirth Center, only siblings are permitted to visit.
- While visitors are important to a healing environment, the number of visitors should be limited to only those necessary for the patient’s comfort.
- People who visit hospitalized patients must clean their hands before entering and when leaving a patient’s room.
Patients and families are also asked to follow these guidelines:
- Pay close attention to your own health before visiting the hospital. Stay home if you are sick.
- Patients should attend appointments alone or be accompanied by immediate caregivers only.
- Patients are discouraged from bringing children with them to appointments.
Riley said it’s not too late to get the flu shot, and offered the following reminders:
- Clean your hands often, especially before eating and after using the bathroom
- Avoid touching your face, nose, and mouth
The temporary restrictions are in place until further notice. Earlier this month, Mercy Medical Center also implemented visitor restrictions.