Officials at all three hospitals in Sussex County say they are preparing for this year’s early and intense flu season.
This year’s flu season is about a month ahead of schedule and cases are being reported throughout Delaware, according to state health officials.
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford already has seen a 20 percent spike in emergency room visits due to patients with flu and flu-like symptoms, according to spokeswoman Ginger Jensen.
Patients exhibiting flu symptoms are being placed in private rooms, while patients, staff and visitors are required to clean their hands when entering and leaving those rooms. Masks also are required.
The hospital also is offering flu shots to adults at its main campus, 801 Middleford Road in Seaford, by appointment. Appointments can be made by calling (302) 629-6611, ext. 2642. There is no charge for flu shots, although a donation of $10 per vaccination is requested.
Official at Milford Memorial said vaccinations are the best way to prevent influenza and recommended seeking out the flu shots at physician offices, clinics and drug stores.
Milford Memorial has required its physicians, employees, volunteers and contractors to get the vaccine this year or wear surgical masks in patient areas.
The hospital also is making more inpatient beds available and increasing staff to deal with the influx of flu cases.
Taylor Porter, a spokesperson for Bayhealth, said the community also is experiencing an increase in Norovirus, commonly referred to as the “stomach bug,” for which there is no vaccine. Symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting.
Officials at Beebe Medical Center in Lewes said visitors exhibiting cold- or flu-like symptoms are being required to wear surgical masks in the hospital.
They asked that people suffering from the flu avoid coming to the hospital except in cases of immediate medical emergencies.
While Beebe has not yet implemented its full emergency management flu plan, it is performing flu tests on outpatient and inpatient samples.
Of the 863 tests performed between Dec. 1 and Jan. 10., 154 tested positive for Influenza A and 8 tested positive for Influenza B, officials said.
More information about this year’s flu outbreak can be found at Centers for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov/flu.