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Fighting the flu from inside the hospital

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BATON ROUGE - This year's flu season is proving to be a deadly one.

Five people have died since November at Our Lady of the Lake hospital, and 11 more patients are in the ICU with the flu Tuesday. Last week alone, more than 1,000 patients were tested for the flu.

If dealing with a high number of patients isn't tough enough, the physicians are also having to worry about coming down with the flu themselves.

"I think about it all the time,” Medical Director of Infection Control and Prevention Catherine O'neal, MD, said."Our staff is going to come into contact with the flu."

The number of patients walking into the hospital last month was more than 10 times that of the year before. So for staff, taking precautionary measures to stay healthy is essential.

"Notice on our badge, and every hospital in the area, wears the same flu shot indicator,” O’neal pointed out.

A majority of the employees have received the flu shot. That's on top of wearing masks and constantly washing their hands.

“We have good protection,” O’neal said. “Most of our staff are going to be fine during flu season, but that doesn't mean they aren't going to be trying to get through the sniffles.”

Every day multiple employees at the hospital are calling in sick.

"Obviously we can manage our staffing situation by increasing staffing, but we also just have to work a little bit harder,” O’neal said.

O’neal says she'd rather have to hire more people, than deal with the alternative.

"If you come to work among 60 other people in your unit and you have the flu, those 60 people are going to be exposed."

One person gone is better than a whole unit out sick.

"This is not the time for our workers to be heroes,” O’neal added. “This is the time to take care of yourself. And that's the best way to get back to work is take care of yourself."

The flu season is far from over. The peak doesn't typically come until February or March. So physicians are encouraging everyone to get their flu shot if they haven't already.


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