January 6, 2014 –
In an effort to protect patients, visitors and medical staff from the spread of flu, effective Tuesday, January 7, 2014,
hospitals and health care systems strongly recommend all patients and visitors wear a mask upon entering
hospitals, freestanding emergency departments, urgent care centers, and branch clinics, including patients seeking outpatient services at hospitals. A mask is also strongly recommended on arrival for patients and family members seeking care at associated physician practices.
This strong recommendation comes at a time when seasonal influenza cases in Virginia have reached the widespread level, which the Virginia Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cite as the highest level of flu activity.
Since vaccines are not 100% effective, patients and visitors entering the facilities who have already had a flu vaccine are still strongly encouraged to wear a mask, as an added protection for themselves and their loved ones.
Medical evidence suggests infected persons can transmit the virus as much as 24 hours before displaying symptoms. This recommendation will help protect patients, visitors, and staff from exposure to flu, even before symptoms occur.
Our goal as health care providers is to use every available and appropriate measure to protect the community, our patients, visitors, family members, and staff at medical facilities from exposure to outside infections. Masks and hand sanitizer will be provided at most facility entrances for public use.
Hospitals and health systems are also asking individuals displaying symptoms of influenza-like illness not to visit patients at area hospitals. Symptoms of flu include: fever and respiratory illness such as cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, chills, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.
The recommendation to wear a mask when entering health care facilities will remain in effect during the flu season and while prevalence of flu in the region is extraordinarily high. Other safety measures to prevent the spread of flu could be considered as the flu season continues.
Participating hospitals and emergency departments include:
Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center
Sentara Freestanding Emergency Departments at Lake Ridge and Lorton Marketplace
Hospital leaders are relying on families to help protect the community from flu.