Jan 17, 2013 9:36 AM by Russ Thomas - KPAX News
MISSOULA - The fear of a widespread flu outbreak in Western Montana has local hospitals on alert.
Staffers at St. Patrick Hospital and Community Medical Center in Missoula say that as the number of influenza cases rise, they are prepared for an increase in patients.
St. Patrick Hospital Infection/Prevention Coordinator Tammy Powers says so far they've been able to meet the needs of the community.
"This is really a little above normal, but it's more like a normal flu season, the last several years, we've had really mild flu seasons."
Officials at both hospitals say they have a plan in place to meet a more widespread outbreak should it occur.
"So our emergency department has 12 beds, and then we do have hallway spaces, but we always try to maximize and triage patients to their appropriate level of care," CMC physician, Dr. Aaron Feist said.
Community Medical Center and St. Patrick Hospital were both hit hard by the H1N1 virus in 2009, and were able to accommodate their infected patients.
Neither hospital has had to adjust their visitation policy at this time, but staff members do suggest using common sense precautions when making hospital visits.
Powers added that the hosptials are taking all possible measures in an effort to decrease the spread of the flu.
"We give people private rooms so they're in droplet isolation, and on top of that we do standard precautions that we do with any patient, so every patient is protected, and healthcare workers are protected, and so are visitors," Powers explained."
Feist says one thing that will help decrease the spread of influenza within local hospitals is to take care of yourself as best you can if you are generally in good health.
"If you feel like you have the flu and you're an otherwise healthy person, I would do the best to ride it out at home using over the counter ibuprofen and Tylenol as directed," Feist advised.
He added that if you are older, very young, or more susceptible to sickness, and experiencing flu-like symptoms, you should contact your physician or make a trip to the hospital.
One death has been blamed on the flu so far this season, while eight people have died in Idaho.
Yellowstone County has seen the most influenza cases this season, and four counties, including Flathead and Missoula, are each reporting over 100 flu cases.