Help keep your neighbors healthy

Published 5:54 pm Friday, December 27, 2019

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Area hospitals and health care systems this week issued a strong recommendation for all patients and visitors to wear masks covering their mouth and nose while inside hospitals, medical facilities and physician practices until further notice.

With flu levels in Hampton Roads at “widespread” for the second consecutive week, the area hospitals and health systems collectively made the recommendation, as they have done for several years in a row. Virginia reached the widespread level of flu activity a full month earlier this flu season than it did last season.

To most of us, influenza equals a miserable week or so but nothing worse. However, for many people — including infants and children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems — influenza can be deadly. Already this season, Virginia alone has had more than 250 deaths associated with pneumonia and influenza.

In addition to measures like getting the flu shot, washing your hands frequently and staying home if you know you’re sick (this includes ensuring your children wash their hands frequently and keeping them home if you know they’re sick), these masks can help stop the spread of disease — and it’s important to wear them even if you don’t feel sick.

Data suggest an infected person can spread the virus 24 hours before showing any symptoms of the disease. Symptoms of flu include fever, respiratory symptoms like cough, sore throat and runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, chills and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

If you’re not sick, wearing a mask can help keep you from getting sick. If you are sick, and perhaps don’t realize it yet, wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of the disease from yourself to others.

These masks are inconvenient and uncomfortable, but helping prevent influenza is more important than convenience or comfort. We strongly urge everyone to follow the masking recommendations and stay home if they are sick in order to slow the spread of this deadly disease.