UAB prepares for peak flu season by educating community members, protecting patients

In an effort to protect the health of our patients and staff this flu season, certain visitor restrictions and precautions will be in place at UAB.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 80,000 people died as a result of flu-related complications during the 2017-2018 season, making it one of the worst flu season in decades. 

In response to last year’s flu numbers and in preparation for the peak of flu season, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is taking extra steps to protect the health of patients, staff, students, faculty and visitors across all areas of the academic and medical campuses, while educating the community about important flu information and resources.

“Last season, we experienced one of the worst flu seasons in recent memory, and we saw people in our community scrambling to understand concepts such as who was at risk, where to get flu shots, how to teach children to avoid spreading the flu,” said Sarah Nafziger, M.D., UAB emergency physician. “This year we have gathered helpful, easy to understand information and tips that people of all ages would find useful, and housed them online in a central place. We hope that through this, we will be able to educate people early on in the season before the flu really ramps up.”

UAB flu resources, recommendations and restrictions

UAB has launched a flu resources – where visitors can find information about where to get a flu shot, how to prevent the flu, what to do if you have the flu and other frequently asked questions. It also has downloadable resources such as posters and videos for schools and offices. The site will be updated regularly throughout the season, and will serve as UAB’s primary flu resource center.

Getting care

The flu shot is the best way to protect yourself from getting the flu and spreading it to others.

“The CDC recommends all people ages six months and above — including pregnant women —receive an annual flu vaccination,” said Leah Leisch, M.D., assistant professor in the UAB Division of General Internal Medicine. “It is especially important for people at high risk for flu-related complications. This includes, but is not limited to, pregnant women, children younger than five, adults older than 65 and people with certain medical conditions. The flu vaccine is not recommended for infants less than six months old.”

Employees and students across UAB and UAB Medicine have access to free flu shots, and community members can find where to get their flu shot through the CDC’s Flu Vaccine Finder.

If you are experiencing flu symptoms — fever or feeling feverish, or experiencing chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue — there are ways to get the care you need. UAB experts recommend calling your primary health care provider or visiting the UAB eMedicine site to connect with a caregiver who can assess your condition and needs without an emergency room or clinic visit.

UAB Medicine visitor restrictions

In an effort to protect UAB patients and the nurses, doctors and staff who care for them, specific visitor restrictions are in place at all UAB Hospital locations from Oct. 1, 2018 through April 1, 2019. These include:

  • Visitors to the obstetrical, gynecologic and neonatal inpatient units in the UAB Women & Infants Center must be at least 12 years of age.
  • Visitors who are experiencing any cold or flu-like symptoms or who currently have a cold or the flu should not visit UAB Hospital, particularly any of the hospital’s Intensive Care Units.
  • Any visitor who may be exhibiting any symptoms of sickness should not visit UAB Hospital and may be asked to leave based on a physician or nurse’s discretion. In addition, visitors are advised to use hand sanitizer before and after visiting any patient room, just as all employees and faculty are required to do.

“We strongly recommend that all visitors receive their flu shot up to two weeks before coming to visit any UAB Hospital facility in an effort to keep all patients, staff, visitors and themselves healthy,” said Rachael Lee, M.D., assistant professor in UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases. “For a majority of the patients across our hospital, the flu and other seasonal viruses can be life-threatening, as their immune systems are compromised and/or weakened, putting them at a higher risk for contracting the flu, which can be life-threatening.”