MNMC: If sick, visiting loved ones in hospital could make things worse

Cough, cough, hack.

That’s the sound of winter in Centre County right now.

“Over the past week, we have started to see an increase in the number of cases of influenza and other respiratory illnesses,” said Marlene Stetson, director of infection control at Mount Nittany Medical Center.

On top of that, the area has also seen an uptick in gastrointestinal illnesses, too.

That’s bad for the people affected. But Mount Nittany has another concern. Patients.

The hospital has put out a visitor alert, cautioning people who are sick to use some discretion when thinking about visiting a loved one who has been admitted.

“These patients are often very, very sick and at risk of additional complications,” Stetson said.

Now, Stetson is adamant that she is not telling sick people not to come to the hospital. That’s counterproductive. What the hospital is saying is that if you are sick, especially if you have a verified diagnoses of a respiratory illness, you should be taking care of yourself by taking it easy until you feel better and taking care of your friends and family by not visiting them in the hospital and exposing them to your medical issues.

“I realize people want to visit, but there are things they can still do. Reach out by phone, send a nice card, plan to do something when they get home. Hospital stays are short these days,” she said.

But then again, sometimes you don’t have a choice. A mom whose child is admitted doesn’t have the option of telling her toddler that she’ll see him when he comes home from that appendectomy. Maybe you only have this chance to say goodbye to Grandma. The hospital understands that.

“There are good reasons,” Stetson said.

Respiratory hygiene kiosks with tissues, hand sanitizer and respiratory masks are available in the hospital to mitigate risks.

Not sure if that nagging winter cough is that big a deal?

The Pennsylvania Department of Health says that influenza is different from those common colds. It comes on quickly and includes symptoms such as fever, headache, tiredness, body aches, nasal congestion, often extreme tiredness and, yes, that bad, dry cough and a matching sore throat.

Stetson urges the public to get vaccinated for the disease.

“I’m sure we still have a significant flu season ahead of us,” she said.