Flu cases peaking across county causing Genesis to remain under visitor restrictions


By Jessica Johnston, Assistant News Director

With flu cases on the rise, Genesis Hospital remains under visitor restrictions, and doctors are encouraging people to get their flu shots in an effort to stay healthy during the epidemic.

Since the beginning of December, there has been a rapid increase in the number of flu cases across the county.

Approximately 390 cases of the flu have been recorded this year by the Zanesville-Muskingum County Health Department, nearly quadrupling the number of cases this time last year which sat at 100, Doctor Jack Butterfield, Medical Director for the Zanesville-Muskingum County Health Department, said.

Doctor Jignesh Modi, Infectious Diseases Specialists for Genesis, echoed Butterfield’s statistics stating that Genesis has seen about 340 of those recorded cases, although not all go to the hospital and may see urgent care or their primary care physician instead.

“Over the past three weeks, we’ve noticed a rapid increase in the number of flu cases and instituted flu restrictions (on Dec. 31),” Modi said.

In an effort to keep hospital patients’ health on the rise and not infect working staff, Genesis has implemented visitor restrictions. The restrictions also help keep visitors safe from passing the virus to one another.

This year has called for more concern for flu cases due to the time of year. In years past, January and February have proven to be peak flu season months.

“What’s concerning about this year is that it began very early and we don’t know how long that’s going to go on,” Butterfield said recalling the epidemic’s start in December.

Trends this year represent that Type A and Type B Influenza are the most common, and Type B is presenting a more intense sickness than Type A.

“During a flu epidemic, not everyone needs to be tested for influenza,” Butterfield said. “Body aches, scratchy, sore throat, dry cough, headache, fever, those are the symptoms of the flu, and when we’re in an epidemic like we are now if you have those symptoms, you likely have the flu and you should behave accordingly.”

Muskingum County’s increase in flu cases is following national trends, according to Butterfield as he said nearly 10 million flu cases across the country have been recorded. Of those nearly 10 million, 4,800 have resulted in death.

“The flu is not simply an illness that makes you feel bad, it is an illness that can and does kill many thousands of people every year,” Butterfield said. “The reason I’m emphasizing that is, it’s not too late to get a flu shot.”

Anyone over the age of 6 month-old is eligible for a flu shot. Vaccinations can be obtained at primary care physicians, pharmacies and the health department.

For the time being, anyone who may be exhibiting signs of the flu is asked to stay away from the hospital.

Genesis is asking that visitors meet the following qualifications:

  • Individuals ages 18 and older
  • Immediate family members
  • Only two visitors per patient
  • Individuals free of flu symptoms, including cough, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, body aches and vomiting

Modi encouraged people who may fall outside of those restrictions to call or video chat with their loved ones who are in the hospital until the restrictions are lifted.

“Once we see a decline, we’ll lift those restrictions,” Modi said.

While the restrictions in place only apply to the hospital, Butterfield encouraged anyone who thinks they have the flu to practice self-imposed restrictions to keep from spreading the illness to others.

“If you think you have the flu, you should not go to work. You’re only going to be exposing your co-workers,” Butterfield said. “If your child has the flu or you think your child has the flu, they should not be going to school because they’ll be exposing their classmates.”