RAW: ANOTHER UPDATE Jan. 24 Hospital visits restricted to family members as flu cases increase

The flu is hitting Mono County finally and a Mammoth Hospital official said Thursday morning (Jan. 24) that visits to patients at the hospital will be restricted to family members only in an attempt to slow the spread of the flu.

"Due to our increase in influenza patients in the Mono County area, Mammoth Hospital is restricting patient visitors to family members only," said Lori Cicarrelli, the hospital's community relations director, in an email to the Times Thursday. "Please check in at the hospital’s front desk or nurses’ station when visiting as you will be escorted to the patient's room. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding."

Although California was one of the very last of the states to get hit with this year's potent strain of the influenza virus, the flu has arrived, according to Mono County Public Health Officer Dr. Rick Johnson, who noted there has been a sharp increase this week in flu-positive diagnosis' and hospitalizations.

As of last week, the county was running low on vaccines, but in the past few days, that problem has been alleviated according to health department officials, and officials said they believe there is enough vaccine to meet the anticipated demand.

The flu vaccine increases your chances of not getting the flu by 62 percent, but it takes two weeks to become effective, so if you are considering getting a flu shot, time is critical, Johnson said.

Here's the latest update from the Mono County Public Health Department, as of Wednesday, Jan. 23.

"Over the last week, the Eastern Sierra has been seeing an accelerated increase in flu activity. This is not unexpected, but heightens our concern, and should make us pay attention. We are seeing increased visits to healthcare providers, positive laboratory tests, Emergency Department visits, and hospitalizations. We have not had any deaths attributed to influenza in our area yet. In the nation, over 50% of the hospitalizations, and over 90% of the deaths have been among seniors. However, over 30 children have also died. Recent deaths in Southern California include a 4 year old who died after being taken to the Emergency Room, and a 22 year old who died after a brief hospitalization. Influenza is now considered to be widespread throughout California.

What should you do to reduce your chance of getting sick?
- Most important, get your flu shot. Good news! Recent shipments have now given us an adequate supply to meet the anticipated need. The Health Department, pharmacies, and clinics all have vaccine, even though the demand is high.
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after touching common surfaces such as doorknobs and grocery carts. Keep your hands away from your face.
- Drink plenty of fluids, eat well, get adequate rest.
What should you do if you get sick? If you think you may have the flu,
- Stay home! Do your co-workers or fellow students a favor by not giving them a gift they do not want! Stay home at least until you are fever free without medication for 24 hours.
- Cover your cough with your arm or sleeve.
- Drink plenty of fluids, treat your fever, rest.
- Call your healthcare provider if you are concerned, if your symptoms are severe or fail to improve, especially if you are at higher risk for complications (pregnant, young children, seniors, those with chronic medical conditions such as lung and heart problems, diabetes, kidney disease, immunosuppression).
- Talk to your healthcare provider about an antiviral medication like Tamiflu within 48 hours of getting sick.
- At the provider’s office, follow instructions for wearing a mask and washing your hands.
- Ask all personnel interacting with you at the provider’s office if they have been immunized. If they have not, request that someone work with you that has received their flu vaccine this season!