Flu Concerns

Local hospitals have put restrictions for visitors in place now that the flu is prevalent across the state.

Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville and St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam implemented visitor restrictions last week.

“Many of the hospitals came together and said ‘let’s protect our patients,'” said St. Mary’s spokeswoman Jerri Cortese.

People are expected to use common sense when visiting a patient, Cortese said.

“Think about this yourself. You are protecting the person you are coming to visit, you are protecting our staff. Please choose another time to visit if you’re sick,” Cortese said.

Restrictions at the hospitals include limiting two visitors per patient’s room at one time and prohibiting children younger than 12 from visiting.

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said health care workers who are not vaccinated against the flu must wear surgical or procedure masks in areas where patients are typically present.

“Health care workers play a vital role in containing the spread of the flu,” Zucker said in a news release. “Although flu shots are a safe and effective way to reduce the risk for flu, not all health care workers choose to get vaccinated. By requiring those who are unvaccinated to wear masks when they’re around patients, we’re doing what we can to protect the most vulnerable, which includes the sick and the elderly.”

Flu activity in the state is now considered to be widespread, with laboratory confirmed cases in 44 counties and all boroughs of New York City. So far this season in New York, about 800 flu-related hospitalizations have been reported. Over the last three seasons, there have been an average of 9,966 flu-related hospitalizations each season.

Flu season occurs primarily from October through May, often peaking in February, the state Health Department says.

It is not too late to get vaccinated, the Health Department says. This year’s strain covers the most common circulating strains for the flu.

Local health officials say the flu is prevalent in the state, but the number of confirmed cases in the area so far is lower than last year’s.

Montgomery County Health Director Kim Conboy said 10 people in the county have tested positive for the flu to date. At this time last year, approximately 70 people tested positive, she said. This reflects a slower flu season, but may not indicate a less-severe season, she said.

The Fulton County Department of Public Health’s Dale Woods reported fewer than 10 confirmed cases in Fulton County this season.

“It’s been a very low season for us. We are very happy about that,” Woods said.

Many hospitals have restrictions every year during flu season.

Conboy said getting vaccinated is the best form of prevention. If you become infected, take precautions such as staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever has diminished.

Melissa Bown, infection control preventionist at Nathan Littauer Hospital, said most of the employees at Nathan Littauer have received the flu shot.

“We have given 1,180 shots to our staff,” Bown said.

Referring to the visitor restrictions at Nathan Littauer, McGrattan said, “Our primary concern is to get people well. They [visitors] understand our need to keep patients safe and have restrictions.”

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