Last updated: February 20. 2013 2:28AM - 828 Views

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WILKES-BARRE – The campaign to avoid the flu and stop it from spreading is at full throttle.

Unless you suffer from egg allergies, health care officials continued Wednesday to urge people to get a flu shot.

Still, a majority of people do not get the shot.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, only about 37 percent of the overall U.S. population has received the flu vaccine to date. That number is expected to increase slightly deeper into the flu season.

Hospitals also are restricting visitors, and employers are taking extensive precautions.

Wilkes-Barre Health Director Ted Kross said babies under 6 months should not get the vaccine, as well as people allergic to eggs or who have had adverse reactions to flu shots.

Matthew Van Stone, public relations specialist at Geisinger Health System, said that because of the recent influx of severe flu cases, the system is restricting visitors under the age of 12 from hospital inpatient floors.

This temporary restriction is effective systemwide and includes all Geisinger inpatient floors, he said.

Geisinger Dr. Lisa Esolen said that in addition to these seasonal visitation restrictions, the system is urging all visitors who are ill with fever, cough, sore throat or body aches to refrain from visiting Geisinger hospitals.

We believe making these temporary changes in visitation is in the best interest of our patients' safety and well-being during this heavy flu season, said Esolen, medical director, Infection Control, at Geisinger.

The restrictions will remain in place until the threat of influenza has passed or returned to normal seasonal levels.

Some people have the misconception that the flu is not as bad as many make it out be, Esolen said. But, in fact, the flu is a very dangerous and potentially fatal disease, which is why visitation restrictions are necessary at this time. Some people have the misconception that they can contract the flu from the vaccine, and this is completely false.

Esolen said the Geisinger system conducts an annual campaign that requires employees to get vaccinated for the flu or wear a mask while on campus. She said that, to date, more than 90 percent of employees have been vaccinated in compliance with this program and the percentage is even higher for clinical staff who have direct patient contact.

James P. McGuire, director of communications at Commonwealth Health, said Wilkes-Barre General Hospital is committed to providing a safe environment for patient care.

We follow industry guidelines for infection control to prevent transmission of infectious agents and encourage all employees to be vaccinated against the flu to help ensure patient safety and protection, especially for patients at increased risk for influenza-related complications, McGuire said.

Kross said many people do not like to inject chemicals into their bodies and are suspicious of the effectiveness of vaccine, which Kross said is about 62 percent this year overall, thus 38 percent of individuals who get the vaccine may get the flu.

It will pass, but we must do all we can to minimize the spread along with decrease mortality associated with the flu, he said.

At Wilkes University and Penn State Wilkes-Barre, students and employees have been offered the vaccine and posters hang throughout both campuses detailing precautions to be taken.

Flu shots are available and we issue constant hand-washing advisories, and the hand sanitizers are fully stocked, said Vicki Mayk, Wilkes spokeswoman.

There are 2,200 students at Wilkes and 400 to 500 employees.

Friday flu clinic

• A flu clinic for all ages will be held Friday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Kirby Health Center, 71 N. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre.

• For more information, call the Health Department at 208-4268.

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