Green Bay area hospital staff share ways they protect against the flu

BELLEVUE, Wis. (WBAY) - Flu season across the U.S. is now deemed just as bad as the Swine Flu epidemic nine years ago. A government report out Friday shows 1 in 13 visits to the doctor last week was for flu-like symptoms, which ties with the highest level seen in the country since the H1N1 epidemic in 2009.

With the flu staying at epidemic levels, hospitals in the Green Bay area have busy waiting rooms. Bellin Health reports seeing dozens more cases than years past, raising the question, how are doctors and nurses preventing sickness?

At Bellin Health all employees are required to get the flu shot, except for those with allergies.

"Some people have read that it's not as effective this year, but it's still protecting you from those strands so it's still important to vaccinate," said Paige Jaworski, a certified medical assistant at Bellin Health.

"We also probably get exposed to things in small enough amounts that we build up immunity a little bit throughout the year to protect ourselves," said Dr. Rachael VandenLangenberg, a family medicine physician at Bellin Health.

Aside from inoculation, doctors and nurses are constantly washing their hands. Dr. VandenLangenberg says she also takes daily Vitamin C.

"I know some people don't wash their hands as much as they should, but in the medical field I wash for every single patient, before and after," said Jaworski.

"This year has been a little bit more tough than last year to stay healthy, but I would say most of us are doing pretty good, we're pretty diligent about wearing our masks and washing our hands and everything,” said Dr. VandenLangenberg.

Patients in the waiting room with flu-like symptoms are asked to wear a mask. Doctors and nurses will also wear a mask to prevent themselves from exposure.

"I think both doctor and patient should be wearing a mask. The more layers of protection we can get between the virus and the patient is going to be the best," Dr. VandenLangenberg says.

Bellin also continues to suggest trying an "e-visit" if patients don't absolutely need an office visit. Consultations by electronic questionnaires or video chat are usually not covered by insurance but could spare a patient from more sickness.

"It probably wouldn't be a bad idea, because then it keeps them out of the waiting rooms. We actually have people cancelling their wellness visits because they're afraid to come and sit in the waiting rooms right now," Dr. VandenLangenberg said.

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