Visitors urged to keep flu out of hospital

Visitors to hospitals in North and East Yorkshire are being urged to help protect patients and staff by reducing the spread of flu and other illnesses which are commonly associated with winter.

Flu, short for influenza, is a common infectious viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes. It can prove fatal for vulnerable people, with those aged 65 and over and with long-term health conditions, including diabetes and kidney disease, particularly at risk.

At this time of year, a rise in the numbers of cases of rotavirus and diarrhoea bugs is also common and these can be equally disruptive if there is an outbreak in a hospital or other healthcare setting.

York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Scarborough Hospital, says there had been a number of confirmed flu cases on the wards over the last few weeks which had led to some bays being closed, putting beds out of action at a time of year when they are most in demand.

Heather McNair, Chief Nurse at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are asking people who have been unwell with symptoms of flu not to visit the hospital until they have been free of symptoms for at least two days. This is really important because the virus is highly infectious and outbreaks can happen quickly.

“We ask that people think carefully before paying any non-essential visits, and to keep hands clean and be vigilant about hand washing. This is to keep the virus contained and to help visitors keep themselves safe as well as their friends or relatives.”

Dr Charles Parker, who will become the Clinical Chair of North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) when the CCGs in Scarborough and Ryedale, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby, and Harrogate and Rural District are disestablished at the end of March next year, added: “An outbreak of flu or norovirus in hospitals and other healthcare settings can have serious consequences, both for patients who may already very unwell, and on the hospital space that’s available to look after people.

“When there is an outbreak of flu or another infection, it’s important this can be contained, but it may mean bays and sometimes entire wards are quarantined and are not available.”

Hospital visitors are asked to:

  • Stay away if they have signs or symptoms of the infection. Some of the main symptoms of flu include:
    – a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
    – tiredness and weakness
    – a headache
    – general aches and pains
    – a dry, chesty cough
  • Cold-like symptoms – such as a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, and a sore throat – can also be caused by flu, but they tend to be less severe than the other symptoms you have.
  • Think carefully before paying any non-essential visits at this time
  • Keep hands clean and be vigilant about hand washing.
  • Respect the fact that if a ward is closed due to the virus, this also applies to visitors.  There are exceptions to this, and the ward sister can advise visitors if they feel they have exceptional circumstances.

You can protect yourself, your family and other patients by getting yourself vaccinated. The flu vaccination is available every year to help protect adults and children at risk of flu and its complications.

The injected flu vaccine is offered free on the NHS annually to:

  • adults over the age of 18 at risk of flu (including everyone aged 65 and over)
  • pregnant women
  • children aged six months to two years at risk of flu

Many pharmacies also offer the flu vaccination.