Flu season typically doesn’t start until late-October, but Habersham Medical Center has already had several confirmed cases.   In preparation of an influx of patients with the flu, the medical center is currently providing the flu vaccine to all its employees, volunteers and long-term care residents.

And beginning at midnight on October 1st, the medical center began assessing hospitalized patients to see if they need to be given the influenza vaccine before they are discharged to go home.  

“We encourage everyone in the community to get vaccinated, especially those who are at risk or are a caretaker of someone who is high risk,” says Theresa Metro-Lewis, a registered nurse who works in the infection prevention department at Habersham Medical Center.  “Everyone older than six months of age should get a flu shot, even if you do not have any risk factors.” 

To be proactive in the fight against contagious germs and to reduce the risk of flu, Habersham Medical Center also urges visitors not to enter the hospital or the Habersham Home long-term care facility if they are ill or think they might be getting sick.   Children, under the age of 12, will not be allowed to visit patients at Habersham Medical Center or residents at Habersham Home during flu season, except siblings of newborns. “We want to protect as many people as we can,” adds Metro-Lewis. “This visitation policy will be in effect through March 31, 2016.”

There are many ways to protect yourself and others including:

• If you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with tissue. 
• If you are a patient and have symptoms of the flu, please wear a mask.
• Please apply alcohol-based hand sanitizer to your hands often, or wash with soap and warm water, especially after you cough or sneeze.

“While visiting Habersham Medical Center, you can obtain tissues and/or masks from any nurses’ station or from the front desk,” adds Metro-Lewis.  “Alcohol-based hand   sanitizer dispensers are also conveniently located throughout the facility.”

Common flu symptoms may include high fever, headache, tiredness/weakness, dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, or body aches. “Most people who get influenza feel sick for a week or two and recover. In some people, influenza leads to more serious lung infections,” says Metro-Lewis. “Signs that influenza is getting worse include fever, chills and shortness of breath.”

If you develop flu-like symptoms, it is important to contact your health care provider.