Communities around the United States are dealing with one of the worst flu epidemics of the decade. In fact, Northern New Jersey has seen some of the highest rates, and even a childhood fatality as a result. Teaneck’s Holy Name Hospital reported the first death of the season in December. When serving a demographic of people with
typically depressed immune systems, such as in nursing homes, the brunt of contagious outbreak of disease can be felt; as the nature of their residences is communal with a strong emphasis on social events to keep people’s spirits and physical activities up. How do you help residents remain emotionally healthy and social while also taking extreme precautions to limit interactions and the transmission of flu and other viruses?
Myles E. Gombert, M.D., F.A.C.P., and the Chief Medical Officer of SentosaCare in New York has discussed how Influenza impacts their nursing home facilities. Preparations begin during the late summer and early fall to inform residents, families and staff about the importance and benefits of vaccination. Nursing home residents are generally elderly with weakened immune systems and are at particularly high risk for the acquisition of Influenza. As soon as the vaccine is available SentosaCare embarks upon a campaign of vaccinating as many eligible individuals as they can. As the season progresses and residents begin to show signs and symptoms of respiratory infections, these facilities are on heightened awareness and screen patients for Influenza. If Influenza is detected the facility reacts promptly in several ways. Residents who are confirmed to have influenza are treated and isolated from the uninfected. The uninfected are given preventive therapies. Staff is screened and are asked to limited their interaction with different floors and activities. Residents’ families are asked to limit their visitation during an outbreak. Infection control practices recommended by the CDC as well as the NYS Department of Health are followed and cases are reported to the relevant regulatory agencies.
In 2018, there have been reports of another virus called Adenovirus. This virus typically causes a self-limiting upper respiratory tract infection. However, there have been a few reports of Adenovirus causing severe symptoms and even fatality. Many of these viruses, should they cause illness, begin with similar symptoms. It is only when viral panel testing is performed that we can differentiate among the strains.
Frankly, I’ve always been impressed with how indestructable the immune systems of the medical community seem. No matter the outbreak, no matter the conditions, there always seems to be a presence of resilient individuals in white coats and scrubs ready to treat the sickest of the sick.
Alex Pollak is the founder and CEO of Paradocs, a community of doctors who treat individuals on-site at large events, gatherings, and festivals. Paradocs allows people who are either injured or sick to be treated immediately without having to leave the premises and go to the hospital.
Pollack and his assistant Medical Director on the West Coast, Danica Barron, have been kind enough to take me through all the ways that doctors ramp-up their hygiene routines during flu season. Getting the flu vaccine is a given, but Barron has also reminded me about the importance of a full 8-hour sleep paired with exercise. “Individuals with healthy sleep regimens paired with sufficient exercise have a much better chance of fighting off viral infections during flu season,” Baron said. The next steps are to constantly wipe off stethoscopes, pens, and any other equipment that may come into contact with patients. It’s important to make sure the wipes are both germicidal and antiviral. And then there’s the typical go-to Purell, Purell, and more Purell: after every patient, after every bathroom visit, before every meal, and after every cough.
“Some doctors also swear by the traditional Vitamin C, Goldenseal, etc., but I feel the Jury is still out on that” Barron said. But one thing’s for sure: sleep, Purell, and exercise.