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January 11, 2013

Influenza hitting Cape Ann hard

GLOUCESTER — The flu is in season. And it’s dealing a heavier than usual hit to people across Cape Ann and beyond.

Both Gloucester and area health officials are urging residents to take stiff precautions, with staff and space at Addison Gilbert Hospital stretched thin.

Dr. Lucas Wolf, chief of infection control at Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals, said that, as of Thursday, every room in both of the Lahey Health facilities — 44 at Addison Gilbert and 227 in Beverly — were occupied, and a majority of patients are those with flu or flu-like symptoms.

Because of that, Wolf said, some elective surgeries — those not seen as urgent — have been postponed in Beverly until more rooms are available.

With every room in use, hospital staffers at both facilities are taking precautions to isolate patients with the flu, in an effort to stop the spread of the virus within hospital walls.

”We are filling them (beds) as fast as patients are discharged, sometimes faster,” Ruth George, the nurse manager of the emergency department at Addison Gilbert Hospital said. She said that, when possible, influenza patients are being paired in the same room, and two-bed rooms are being made into single rooms in an attempt to limit influenza patients’ exposure to others without the virus.

Also, in an effort to make vaccinates more accessible to residents, another free clinic has been scheduled for Addison Gilbert Hospital. On Tuesday, from 9 to 11 a.m., Gloucester Health Department officials will be hosting the free clinic inside the cafe of the hospital. The clinic is available to anyone age six months old or older, and there is no pre-registration required.

The clinic is open to everyone, not just residents of Gloucester, officials said.

At the hospitals, quick swab tests are being done on most patients, but if somebody has a manageable case of the virus, he or she is being discharged if deemed healthy enough to return home.

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