Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Loyola Medicine Records Spike in Flu Cases

Flu Shot, Frequent Hand Washing Best Defense

MAYWOOD, IL – The number of seasonal flu cases at Loyola Medicine spiked during Christmas week to a four-year high of 179 confirmed cases in a single week and the surge may not yet be over.

More than 1,200 Loyola patients with headaches, body aches, sniffles, coughs and fever were tested for influenza in December. Of those, 357 patients had a lab-confirmed case of flu, said Jorge Parada, MD, MPH, medical director of Loyola's infection prevention and control program.

"This season started earlier than the last two years, but we've had more confirmed cases than at any point since 2014," Dr. Parada said. "Currently, more than half of all the flu tests we send to the lab are returning positive. In the last two weeks, we have diagnosed as many people with flu as we did during the first 12 weeks of the flu season, which began October 1."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health have designated the outbreak in Illinois as "widespread." Despite recent reports from the CDC that the flu vaccine may not be very effective against certain active strains, Dr. Parada urged everyone to still get vaccinated.

"The season is likely not over yet. If you haven't gotten your flu shot yet, put it at the top of your list and get it today," Dr. Parada said. "Since flu can also be transmitted by contact with contaminated surfaces, I urge everyone to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water or hand sanitizer many times throughout the day."

Loyola implemented its flu visitor restriction policy on December 18. It requires all visitors with respiratory symptoms (cough, sneezing, runny nose) to wear surgical masks at all times while at the medical center. Visitors are also limited to those ages 18 or older.

For the ninth year in a row, Loyola has required all employees, students, volunteers and vendors to receive the seasonal flu vaccination. This season, Loyola colleagues were immunized during a three-day emergency response drill, which allowed for maximizing preparedness training while providing flu vaccines.

"Some jobs require you to wear a helmet and steel-toed boots," Dr. Parada said. "Hospital and clinic staff need vaccinations to protect themselves and others from infectious diseases. Impressively, we were able to achieve a 100 percent participation rate with 97 percent of staff receiving the vaccine and only a few exemptions in a record amount of time."

If you have been diagnosed with the flu, Dr. Parada offered this advice:

Rest, drink fluids and take over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen as needed. If you vomit or eliminate blood, become disoriented or suffer extreme fatigue, call your doctor or go to an immediate care center, he said.

"Please stay home for the protection of your community as you are highly contagious and will spread the illness to others," he said. "Your inconvenient bug may be a life-threatening illness to the very young, very old or chronically ill people that you encounter." 

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), located on a 61-acre campus in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (GMH) on a 36-acre campus in Melrose Park, and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. At the heart of LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital that houses the Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, a burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center, a children's hospital, and Loyola Outpatient Center. The campus also is home to Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. The GMH campus includes a 247-licensed-bed community hospital, a Professional Office Building with 150 private practice clinics, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

About Trinity Health

Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 93 hospitals, as well as 122 continuing care programs that include PACE, senior living facilities, and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $17.6 billion and assets of $23.4 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity Health employs about 131,000 colleagues, including 7,500 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity Health is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services — ranked by number of visits — in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs. For more information, visit www.trinity-health.org. You can also follow @TrinityHealthMI on Twitter.