Senior doctors have issued a fresh call for people with cold or flu-like symptoms not to visit patients in hospital, as high flu rates continue.
Dr David Walker, medical director at East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, is urging those with flu to stay away as it could be passed to patients who are already unwell.
Dr Walker said: “Since the beginning of the year, flu levels in our hospitals have increased and our challenge is to try to prevent its spread to our patients and staff.
“We have put in place infection control measures to try to limit the spread of flu within the hospital but we need the public to help too.
“Flu is extremely infectious and can easily spread to other people – that’s why it is vital that you protect your loved ones in hospital by staying away until you are better.
“If they are in hospital they are already ill or injured so you don’t want to make them feel worse by passing on viruses. If your visit is absolutely essential and you have flu symptoms you should tell the ward so that you can be given the right advice.
“If you have flu you’re more likely to give it to others in the first five days, and it is spread by viruses from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.
“There are a number of simple actions people can take to reduce the risk of spreading the virus including washing your hands often with warm water and soap, using tissues to trap viruses when you cough or sneeze, and binning those tissues as quickly as possible. Catch it, bin it, kill it.
“We would urge anyone who has experienced any flu symptoms within the last forty-eight hours not to visit hospital as it could be passed on to patients who are already very unwell.
“If you are well enough to visit, please remember to keep your hands clean by washing and using antibacterial gel. Clean hands are the best way to stop spreading infection.”
This comes as both the Conquest and Eastbourne District General Hospitals are experiencing the usual winter pressures. The Trust is therefore urging patients to attend the most appropriate service for their healthcare needs.
There is a range of support and service provision available for patients, including pharmacies and NHS111 – which can assess your needs and if necessary in the arrange a GP appointment if you are calling after 5pm or at weekends. There are also Walk in Centres at the Eastbourne and Hastings Rail Stations and the Minor Injuries Units (MIUs) in Uckfield and Crowborough. Opening hours are available on the local websites.
Dr David Walker added: “It’s not too late to protect yourself and your family by having a flu jab. The flu vaccine is free for those in higher risk groups and is still available and I would urge those who are eligible to take advantage of this.
“Every year, around two thirds of people who get severe flu and need intensive care treatment have a health condition such as chronic lung or heart disease.
“People with health conditions are at greater risk and need the extra protection – no matter what age you are, how fit and healthy you feel, if you have a health condition including diabetes, asthma, bronchitis and heart disease, you are more vulnerable to flu.”
For more information visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/flu or www.sussexhelpmy.nhs.uk