HAHV facilities limit visitors in effort to slow spread of flu

By Jay Braman Jr.
New visitor restrictions have been imposed at Kingston, Benedictine and Margaretville hospitals in an attempt to protect patients from exposure to the seasonal and H1N1 flu viruses. No more than two people will be allowed to visit a patient at one time; no visitors under the age of 12 will be permitted; and no visitors with flu-like symptoms will be allowed.
Those who do visit are urged to wash their hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when entering and leaving a patient’s room.
The three hospitals are part of HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley (HAHV).
Tony Albanese, superintendent of the Margaretville Central School District, said Tuesday that so far there is no cause for alarm in the district although there are more absences this week than last week. He said staff and students are out of school, but not anywhere near the amount that would put the administration in a position of discussing closure of the schools.
He added that the staff, students and parents are taking the threat seriously and taking precautions.
“People have done a great job,” he said.
In the Andes School District, School Nurse Ed Sanford said there are actually fewer absences this week than last week. He estimates that less than five percent of those out sick are ill with the flu.
Thomas O’Brien, district superintendent of the Roxbury School District, was happy to report that it appears the flu threat has come and gone in his jurisdiction.
“We’re back to normal,” he said Tuesday.
O’Brien said that last week 25 percent of the student population was out sick, but that this week that figure is down to about 10 percent.
The H1N1 virus, also known as the swine flu, now officially a pandemic that continues to infect people around the globe, first had confirmed cases in Delaware and Ulster counties early this summer.
On June 4 the first documented case of the virus appeared in Ulster County. County health officials refused to identify the victim or where the person lives in the county. A week later two more cases were reported, bringing the total to three infections, with at least one being located in the Kingston area.
That same week in Delaware County there was one confirmed case. Nearby Roscoe, in Sullivan County, has one confirmed case as well, although it is said to be the same case – a student that lives in Delaware County that attends the Roscoe Central School District in Sullivan County.
It typically takes one-to-four days after exposure to contract symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, chills and vomiting, but it can take up to seven days for the symptoms to appear.
People with chronic illnesses such as asthma are more at risk and people who have H1N1 flu should stay home for seven days, or 24 hours after symptoms are gone, whichever is longest.
The virus is expected to remain a significant health concern into winter during the regular flu season, according to the Center for Disease Control.