An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and with this in mind, the regional hospital is asking visitors to wear a mask if they haven’t received a flu shot.
“During influenza season having unvaccinated healthcare workers and visitors wearing masks can serve as a method of source control” explained Joanne Tench, infection control practitioner at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH). “Masks may also protect unvaccinated healthcare workers or visitors from as yet unrecognized infected patients.”
Although flu season outbreaks can begin as early as October, the new regulations issued by the Ministry of Health stipulate that members of the public or unvaccinated healthcare providers must don a mask on Dec. 2 until the end of the influenza season (generally March 31).
A station is already set up inside the front entrance of KBRH that contains masks and hand sanitizer with additional points of supply available in all patient care areas Monday.
The mask policy is based on the honour system and there will be no “mask security” on site, said Tench.
“While staff will be able to assist visitors in the right way to put on the masks they will not be enforcing it,” she said. “It is important for people to realize that patients in hospital may be more vulnerable to the flu and other infections.”
Surgical masks reduce the concentrate of influenza virus expelled into ambient air when they are worn by someone shedding the virus, however Tench reminds people entering the hospital to wash their hands and use the provided hand sanitizer.
“Regular masks prevent the droplet spread of the flu,” she said. “But microorganisms can be spread by anyone and hand hygiene is everybody’s responsibility, including staff, patients, residents, visitors and volunteers.”
Visitors and staff should stay home if they feel sick or have a fever and anyone planning to visit patients in a health-care facility, or those who take family members to outpatient appointments, are eligible for a free influenza shot from a pharmacist, clinic or licensed practitioner.
The next flu clinics in Trail are at the Kiro Wellness Centre, Dec. 11 from 9 a.m. until noon and Dec. 16 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Call the Centre at 364-6219 for information.