By Terri Watkins, CNO & Mark Holyoak, CEO, Castleview Hospital
With the advent of fall, cold and flu season arrives, which means it’s time to arm yourself and your loved ones with the proper preventive measures to stay well. Be prepared by making sure you and your family have had your annual immunizations, as well as taking sensible measures to avoid the spread of illness.
This year, reports of other illnesses – Ebola and Enterovirus D-68 (EV-D68) – have overshadowed cold and flu season and prompted concern in communities across the country and worldwide. While the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) does not anticipate the widespread outbreak of Ebola in the United States, and we have seen no cases of EV-D68 locally, we understand that news reports about the rise of unfamiliar viruses can be intimidating.
The good news is that you can effectively and easily protect yourself and your family from these and other viruses by following standard procedures for good hygiene and infection control. Castleview Hospital recommends the following in accordance with guidelines from the CDC:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, scrubbing the backs, between fingers, and under your nails, for at least 20 seconds.
• If you don’t have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth – especially with unwashed hands.
• Avoid close contact and sharing food, cups or eating utensils with anyone who may have a virus.
• Disinfect your home and belongings, such as children’s toys and play areas, regularly.
• Ensure that those who are sick stay home from school or work to avoid exposing others to infection.
• Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue or, if not available, your sleeve or elbow (not your hands).
An annual flu vaccine can help prevent the flu and also make diagnosis of other viruses, including Ebola, easier. The flu vaccine is the number one way to prevent the flu. In fact, the CDC recommends that everyone from children age six months to adults have an annual flu vaccination.
Castleview Hospital Preparedness
In addition to your personal efforts to prevent the spread of viruses, Castleview Hospital wants to assure the community that we are taking the appropriate precautions to keep our patients, employees and community safe. We operate according to CDC and state health department guidelines to provide safe, appropriate care and give you the information and resources to keep you and your family well.
Our care team at Castleview Hospital is trained and prepared to manage outbreaks of viruses and infectious diseases, including Ebola and EV-D68. In fact, out of an abundance of caution, you may notice the following changes we have implemented to proactively prepare for a potential case of Ebola:
• Additional questions added upon registration regarding recent travel to foreign countries;
• Signage posted at hospital entrances inquiring about travel to foreign countries; and
• Limited visitor access, in the event of a patient with possible symptoms.
Please remember that these are purely preventive measures to protect our community and not intended to cause any alarm.
What is Enterovirus D-68 (EV D-68?)?
Enterovirus D-68 (EV- D68) is one of hundreds of strands of non-polio enteroviruses that cause 10 to 15 million infections in the U.S. every year. EV-D68 has been rarely reported in the U.S. in the last four decades. The recent outbreak has caused concern particularly among parents, because infants, children and teenagers are at increased risk due to their less developed immune systems.
Most people who are infected with non-polio enteroviruses do not get very ill. Non-polio enteroviruses may cause a mild cold- or flu-like illness, but people with weaker immune systems – infants or individuals with chronic illnesses – can develop more serious complications and require hospitalization.
All symptoms should be monitored, regardless of the perceived level of severity, and reported to your doctor if they worsen. Mild symptoms may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, rashes, and body and muscle aches. Severe symptoms may include wheezing and difficulty breathing.
What is Ebola?
Ebola is an animal-borne virus that originated in African countries. Once transmitted to humans, the virus is spread through contact with blood or body fluids of infected persons. Populations most at risk for the virus are people who have traveled to a country where the disease is prevalent. To date, four cases of Ebola have been reported in the U.S., which has prompted concern. However, the CDC does not anticipate the widespread outbreak of Ebola to the general population.
Signs and symptoms of Ebola include fever, headache, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bruising and bleeding. Recovery from the virus depends on the patient’s immune response.
The CDC has issued a recommendation for U.S. citizens to avoid non-essential travel to affected countries. The CDC also is working with international public health organizations, federal agencies and the travel industry to help train staff and screen and identify ill travelers.