Cobleskill Regional Hospital is asking patients to limit visitors in an effort to slow the spread of the flu that’s now considered “widespread” throughout the state.
There’s no major flu case load in Schoharie County, hospital spokeswoman Joanne Gleba said, and the hospital is hoping to avoid one by trying to keep sick or infected people away from those already in need of medical attention.
“To be proactive and cautious, we have put in place restricted visiting rules,” she said.
“We didn’t do this because we’re seeing unusual flu activity; we’re doing it to be cautious and because we understand that flu is widespread,” Gleba said.
The Cobleskill hospital is asking patients to limit visitors to two in the room at a time and none at all under age 13.
The virus-borne illness has already claimed the life of a child this season, and more than 400 people had been hospitalized with the flu by Dec. 22, according to the most recent data from the state Health Department’s Bureau of Communicable Disease Control.
The holiday season, which comes with shopping in crowded malls and indoor visits with families, saw flu levels spike from a “regional” level in mid-November to “widespread” a month later.
A regional level of flu activity is indicated when flu is detected in at least of 31 of 62 New York counties.
Now, it’s been found in all New York counties, and there were 3,975 confirmed cases by Dec. 22, according to the state Health Department.
An updated report is expected to be released shortly, according to state Health Department spokeswoman Marci L. Natale.
Hospitals throughout the Capital Region instituted patient visitor restrictions in 2009 when the flu was considered a pandemic, but it’s not that bad so far this year, according to Michelle Kaiser, an infection preventionist at Albany Medical Center Hospital.
“We have not gotten to that point yet this flu season,” Kaiser said.
Nevertheless, Kaiser said there are signs posted at hospital entrances asking people not to visit patients if they are sick.
Stations near entrances also have waterless hand cleansers, masks and tissues available for people who are coming into the hospital, she said.
It’s likely the height of the flu season right now, Kaiser said, but it’s not too late to get a flu vaccine, even though it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to take effect.
Otherwise, Kaiser said people should continue to keep their hands clean and practice “respiratory etiquette” by sneezing into tissues or into their elbows.
“It helps prevent the spread,” she said.
More information about the flu can be found online at www.health.ny.gov.