RARITAN TWP., NJ – Starting tomorrow, Feb. 7, all Hunterdon Medical Center visitors and outpatients coming into the facility will be screened for flu-like symptoms, HMC announced in a press release this afternoon.

Flu screening will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the hospital’s main entrance. Visitors who are ill and have arrived to see a patient will not be allowed to visit. They will be asked to return when well, which is when they have been symptom-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication.

Those with flu-like symptoms who are coming to HMC for an outpatient test or procedure will be asked to wear a mask while in the hospital.

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All healthy individuals will be given a special sticker to wear while in the hospital, to identify that they have been screened.

Over the past few weeks, Hunterdon has seen an increase in illness reported throughout the school districts and high flu activity has been identified throughout the county. The screening is being done “to best protect our patients, staff and volunteers,” the release states.

“Patients who are admitted to the hospital are already sick and their immune system can be weak, making it more difficult to fight off infections like the flu,” said Lisa Rasimowicz, MSN, RN, CIC, Director of Infection Prevention at HMC. “We want to best protect our patients from developing the flu. We recognize this screening may cause our visitors and outpatients some inconvenience, but this process is critical to protect the health and safety of our patients, staff and volunteers,” she explained.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. While most healthy people recover from the flu without complications, some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious complications from the flu.  Flu symptoms include fever (usually high), headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, diarrhea and vomiting (occurs mostly in children).

“The flu spreads in respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing. It usually spreads from person-to-person, though occasionally a person may become infected by touching something with virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose,” Rasimowicz said. “A person may be able to infect others one day before getting symptoms and up to seven days after getting sick.

“It is possible to give someone the flu before you know you’re sick as well as while you are sick,” she stated. “It’s important to cover your coughs and sneezes, stay away from sick people  - and stay home if you’re sick -  and wash hands often to help stop the spread of viruses like the flu.

The best way to prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine, according to the press release, and it is not too late to get vaccinated.  Contact your primary care physician to schedule an appointment.  If you need a primary care physician, call Hunterdon Medical Center’s Physician Referral Service at 1-800-511-4462 or visit the website.