Central Pennsylvania hospitals and health systems are taking special measures as the flu continues to rage in the state.
PinnacleHealth System announced Tuesday that it launched a Flu Line so nurses can answer questions about when to see a physician, what conditions require emergency treatment and how to recover at home. The line is available 11 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays at 717-231-8340 or 800-814-3431.
Reporting unusually high volumes of flu cases this early in the season, hospitals are requesting that people with flu-like symptoms not visit patients. They also are urging vaccinations and reminding people that emergency room visits should be reserved for those with severe complications.
Some hospitals are limiting patients to two guests and discouraging visits from children. Hanover Hospital requires that those who have symptoms but must be at the hospital wear masks, provided at the entrances to the main lobby and emergency department.
The state’s latest report says 18 flu-related deaths were reported last week, for a total of 40 deaths this season, most among the elderly. Cumberland and York counties each had one reported death this season, and Lancaster County had three.
Statewide, lab-positive cases increased last week, at 5,069 compared to the previous week’s 4,256, and the state said the season may not have peaked. Hospitalizations were down, however, from 511 the previous week to 433 last week.
The state and local health systems also are providing material to help people recognize flu symptoms and prevent spreading the flu at work and other locations.
Lancaster General Health noted that it has joined more than 50 other hospitals and health systems across Pennsylvania in pledging to establish a mandatory flu vaccination program for all health care personnel beginning with this flu season.
The effort is part of a statewide influenza vaccination campaign led by Pennsylvania's Patient Safety Authority, Department of Health and Hospital Association. LG Health said it decided to mandate immunization because numerous other efforts resulted in vaccination rates just above 70 percent in its system.