All patients and visitors, even those who already had a flu vaccine, are strongly encouraged to wear masks inside healthcare facilities.

Masking recommended for widespread flu levels

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Public health officials report seasonal influenza-like illness is entering widespread levels.

Effective immediately, Sentara Healthcare recommends all patients and visitors, including those seeking outpatient services, wear a mask inside its hospitals, medical facilities and physician practices to protect the community from the spread of flu. Masks and hand sanitizer are available at facility entrances for public use.

All patients and visitors, even those who already had a flu vaccine, are strongly encouraged to wear masks inside healthcare facilities. Vaccine is the best prevention available, but they are not 100% effective. Masking provides an added layer of protection from the potentially deadly disease. 

As a healthcare provider, our goal is to protect the community from disease. Data suggests infected persons can transmit the virus as much as 24 hours before displaying symptoms. This recommendation helps protect our patients, visitors and staff from exposure to flu, even before symptoms occur. 

Individuals displaying symptoms of influenza-like illness are asked not to visit patients at the hospital. Symptoms of flu include fever and respiratory illness symptoms 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 healthcare facilities will remain in effect during the flu season while the disease is at widespread levels.

Additional measures to limit the spread of disease, especially flu, include washing hands frequently, staying home when sick, getting vaccinated and coughing into sleeves or tissues.