Flu outbreak means family-only hospital visits

Increasing numbers of patients and staff with influenza-like symptoms has resulted in restrictions on visitors to Dunstan Hospital's general ward to contain the spread.

Central Otago Health Service Ltd runs the hospital and its general manager, Karyn Penno, said, as of noon yesterday, seven out of about 20 patients and six staff members had flu-like symptoms.

The strain of flu had not yet been identified and the patients came in with symptoms, rather than contracting flu after they were admitted, she said.

"It's a particularly aggressive strain of flu and we're taking this precaution - restricting visiting in the Vincent ward - to stop it in its tracks.

"All this has happened within 24 hours, so it's quick-moving.''

Various strains of flu were usually circulating at this time of year but the elderly, the very young and those with compromised health already were particularly vulnerable, Ms Penno said.

Flu-like symptoms included fever, chills, muscle aches, runny nose, cough and stomach upsets. Hospital staff reminded people to follow basic hygiene practices, such as washing hands and following the correct cough and sneeze etiquette.

The increase in patients with flu symptoms was placing a strain on ward and staff resources, Ms Penno said.

"It is because of this that management have now placed the hospital in outbreak management in order to contain and control.''

The situation would be reassessed tomorrow.

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