Check your flu at the door

Hospital restricts visitors amidst outbreak

BEL AIR, Md. (WMAR) - It may look like a hospital, but once you walk through the doors of the Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air, you'll find it being guarded like a fortress.

"If somebody is sneezing as they're walking down, I'll say, 'Excuse me!'" said Frances Wagner, one of the volunteers on the center’s flu team.
Armed with sanitary soap, the team requires everyone entering the building to wash their hands and those visiting patients must wear a mask if they are allowed to visit them at all.

"The patient selects one or two people that they would like to have visit on a daily basis and that way we limit the number of exposures and potential risks for the patient," said Dr. Leonardo Girio-Herrera, the director of infection prevention.
Anyone with flu symptoms, including a fever, cough or sore throat are being turned away at the door and no one under the age of 18 is allowed in unless they're a patient or the parent of a child receiving treatment.

"We've seen a little over 300 cases of flu this year and obviously we're just half way through the season," said Girio-Herrera.
With rare exception, the hospital is also requiring its doctors, staff and patients to get flu shots, taking every precaution possible to halt the spread of the virus.

"I've only had one person who said, 'Really?'” said Wagner, “and I said, 'Yes, we want to keep you safe.  We want to keep everybody else safe.  We want to keep the community safe.'"
Safe for the patients, those who treat them and, yes, even the volunteers who are forming the front line against the flu's spread.

"It's a huge concern.  Yes.  I see it on the news---more people dying... kids and people our age,” said Mary Watkins who also volunteers with the flu team, “That's scary stuff."

Doctors say even though it's not 100% effective, you should still get the flu shot, and if you're ill, you should self-medicate for mild symptoms and visit your family doctor or an urgent care center if they grow worse before heading to the emergency room as a last resort, since they are overwhelmed right now.

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