Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH) is asking visitors to mask up during flu season.
Starting today, the Trail hospital is one of the provincial health-care facilities encouraging people who have not had a flu shot to wear a mask to help protect those at-risk of influenza. The masks, along with hand sanitizer, are available in the lobby at the information desk.
“In the hospital, we’ve got very vulnerable patients, and if you have got the flu or a cold it’s really important to protect yourself from passing that onto that vulnerable patient,” said Jane Cusden, acute health services director for Interior Health Authority.
“The majority of staff do have the flu vaccine, which contributes to protecting them against the flu but also protecting our patients.”
This is the second year Interior Health has set this visitor policy and the fourth year it has encouraged its staff to get the flu shot or commit to wearing a mask at work.
Joanne Tench, KBRH infection control practitioner, said the best practice remains the flu shot.
“Research has definitely shown that it does prevent infections, for some people they may still get sick, but they won’t be as sick or hospitalized near as often,” she said. “We do ask everybody who comes through the door to hand wash and that I have noticed has increased over the years. I see a lot more people washing as they enter the building.”
Other facilities following the province-wide initiative include long-term care homes, public health units, and outpatient clinics.
Each year there are approximately 3,500 deaths from the flu and its complications in Canada, according to the Ministry of Health. People infected with flu are highly contagious and can spread the virus for 24-hours before they even realize they are sick.
The flu vaccine is free to people intending to visit a health-care facility and is available at public health clinics, physicians’ offices, travel clinics and pharmacies. It’s also free in B.C. for children between the ages of six months and five years, seniors 65 years or older, pregnant women and Aboriginal people, as well as individuals with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems and their household contacts and caregivers.
The nasal spray flu vaccine is also available for free at public health clinics and physicians’ offices to children two to 17 years of age who are at risk of serious illness from influenza or who live with someone who is at risk.