Calvert Memorial Hospital has responded to a number of phone calls from concerned residents following recent reports of a cluster of serious flu illness. Hospital officials are encouraging area families to follow basic guidelines recommended during flu season – get vaccinated, wash hands frequently and limit contact with sick people. Anyone with flu-like symptoms should check with a healthcare provider.
State officials said Wednesday that lab tests confirm that two of the members of a Calvert County family who died early this week of severe respiratory illness had a strain of the seasonal flu.
“We understand that many in the community are nervous about the flu after reading media reports about this family’s tragedy,” said Dr. Paul Pomilla, medical director for infectious diseases at Calvert Memorial Hospital, “but we want to reassure the public that we are not aware of any other cases of serious influenza-like illness that have a confirmed link to the original patients.”
He went on to add, “We are continuing to monitor the influenza-like illness that is seen in the ER, urgent care centers and the hospital and will share this information with the health department.”
This year’s flu season has gotten off to a late start and is expected to stretch into late May. “That is why we are recommending people who have not yet received a flu vaccine to get one,” said Pomilla. He said flu shots are available locally at some doctor’s offices, pharmacies, grocery stores and the health department, which offers them on a walk-in basis on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. for $20.
Pomilla explained that influenza (flu) comes in different strains and each year the flu vaccine is developed to cover the strains that are expected to circulate. “It is believed that this year’s flu vaccine covers the strain of seasonal flu that began the respiratory illness process for the patients who died earlier this week.” He cautioned that even with the flu shot, it takes two weeks for antibodies to form and provide you with protection.
While the severity of illness due to flu varies from season to season, in general the very young, adults older than 65 and individuals with certain medical conditions are at higher risk for developing flu-related complications. In addition to the flu vaccine, the health department is asking residents to take standard precautions to prevent the spread of illness, including hand washing and limiting contact with sick people.
“Good hand hygiene is something we practice all the time,” said Linda O’Brien, director of infection control at CMH. She said the hospital has initiated other measures to protect its patients and staff during the flu season. “We’re asking that people with flu-like symptoms not visit friends or relatives in the hospital.”
She went on to add, “Visitors are encouraged to use the hand-sanitizing stations that are installed around the campus. We’re also using extra caution with anyone sneezing or coughing. They will be asked to put on a mask as soon as they come in.”
“Our goal is to educate residents to be active participants in helping to prevent the spread of the flu and to keep themselves and their families healthy,” said O’Brien.