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DHHS takes Steps to Limit H1N1 Spread at State Facilities

Release Date: October 21, 2009
Contact: Mark Van Sciver, 919-733-9190

RALEIGH – State-operated hospitals, residential schools, developmental disability centers, neuro-medical treatment centers and alcohol and drug treatment centers have already implemented plans to limit the potential spread of H1N1 flu at their facilities as North Carolina prepares for the fall flu season.

A case of H1N1 flu has been confirmed in more than one of the 14 state-operated facilities, and preparation and procedures are already in place to limit the potential spread of the flu to unaffected patients/residents and employees.

State-Operated Healthcare Facilities Division Director Luckey Welsh says that the goal is to “stop the disease at the door” and, if it does get in, limit its ability to spread.

Beginning Fri., Oct. 23, all state facilities will actively screen all staff and visitors to identify people exhibiting signs of respiratory infections.  Visitors with flu symptoms will not be permitted to visit patients or residents until they are no longer sick. Employees who develop fever or influenza-like symptoms are being instructed not to come to work or, if already on the job, to make arrangements to leave and avoid contact with other employees and patients/residents. 

“All facility employees have been briefed with the goals and procedures regarding the flu plans and their duties and responsibilities. We have posted notices throughout our facilities with common sense steps all of us can take to avoid catching or spreading the flu,” Welsh said.  “These include thorough washing of hands with soap or alcohol-based hand cleaners, covering coughs and, if required or advised, to wear surgical face masks. So far these procedures have worked extremely well at limiting the spread of H1N1 at our facilities.”

State facilities are particularly vulnerable to a potential H1N1 outbreak because they are closed environments and include patients and residents who are considered high risk and medically fragile, said Dr. Susan Saik, MH/DD/SAS medical services manager.

“All our state facilities are meeting all current recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the N.C. Division of Public Health for responding to the H1N1 flu,” she said. “We plan to match and meet any changes either the CDC and our state public health experts recommend.“

“Our watchword is ‘Be Prepared’,” Welsh added. “So far, all our visitors and guests have understood the importance of trying to reduce the potential introduction and spread of the flu. They have been cooperative and supportive of our efforts to protect their family and loved ones.”

There are more than 3,400 patients or residents at any given time and more than 12,000 employees in DSOHF facilities.

“I am confident that we have taken the wise and appropriate measures to prepare as best we can to protect the health and well-being of our patients, residents and employees,” Welsh added.  “We will continue to be vigilant. We will notify the media immediately for changes in visitation status as a means of letting families and others know if they will be able to visit residents or patients. We also plan to use the state’s facilities website as a rapid means of posting information concerning flu, breaking news or other information a person may need to know about the status at one of our hospitals, developmental centers, residential schools or substance abuse treatment centers or neuro-medical treatment centers.” Ready NC Connect NC