New Hospital Hand Sanitation Stations are for Visitors as well as Patients and Staff
Rideout Health (RH) is encouraging the community to make a two-handed attack on the flu this year: vaccination to help prevent infection and hand washing to help prevent its spread. Flu season can begin as early as October and extend through April or May of each year, peaking in January and February.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease caused by viruses that mutate often, seemingly one step ahead of scientists devising vaccines against them. While seemingly as 'common' as the 'common cold,' the 'flu' affects 10-15% of the population in any given year and can be far more serious. An annual flu shot is recommended for everyone over the age of six months, but especially for those most vulnerable in the population: those under four and over fifty years of age, women who are pregnant and those with respiratory, cardiac, immune or neurological disease or other medical conditions. Caretakers and parents of infants under six months should also get the vaccine. The flu virus can be transmitted even before a person exhibits any symptoms, so Rideout is reminding everyone that observing cough and sneeze "etiquette" is always important, as are clean hands. Whether you are feeling sick or not, cover your mouth, sneeze into your sleeve if necessary, and wash or sanitize your hands regularly.
While all staff at Rideout's inpatient facilities are trained to follow strict protocols for infection prevention and control, the organization is now actively encouraging visitors to do the same. In addition to upgrading its hand sanitation stations to new motion-activated dispensers at Rideout Memorial and Fremont Medical Center, RH also expanded the number of them in public spaces such as lobbies and hallways, in addition to being both inside and outside of every patient room. It also switched to a product with high consumer name recognition, a specially-formulated non-aerosol foam version of Purell that kills 99.99% of germs.
About 700 of the dispensers have been installed at Rideout Memorial Hospital, along with extensive signage for a new public awareness campaign, "Don't Give germs a Hand." With installations at other patient care locations now underway, there will be more than 1,000 dispensers system-wide. In addition to the foam dispensers, Purell gel in pump dispensers will be carried on all medical carts, with personal size bottles available for staff to carry in their pockets.
The program is being spearheaded by Rideout Health's Manager of Infection Prevention and Control, Cynthia Zips, a microbiologist who has been certified in Infection Control since 2005. She began her career in a hospital laboratory where she later specialized in virology, and then trained with Dr. C. Glenn Mayhall, a leading epidemiologist at the University of Texas. She recently joined Rideout Health after two years at the Oklahoma Foundation for Medical Quality, where she worked with hospitals in that state to reduce their rates of various infections and to improve their hand hygiene compliance.