Contact: Thomas Hottman
By NORA AVERY-PAGE
H&N Staff Reporter
Proper hand washing is the key to avoiding the flu this season, as well as headline-grabbing viruses such as Ebola and enterovirus D68, said Lindsay Hamilton, a registered nurse and the infection control and employee health coordinator at Sky Lakes Medical Center.
"Hand hygiene saves the day," Hamilton said. "I can't say it enough.
"The Oregon Health Authority confirmed earlier this month that there have been four cases, three in Multnomah County and one in Deschutes County, of the enterovirus strain D68, which has infected children across the country with sometimes deadly consequences.
While there are no confirmed cases in Klamath County, it still wouldn't change treatment protocols if an infected patient were to come to Sky Lakes, Hamilton said.
"There's no special treatment for D68," Hamilton said. "It's just supportive care. We do just like we do for any other child who comes in with respiratory distress. "Children with asthma or other respiratory problems are at a higher risk from the virus, Hamilton explained.
But symptoms for enterovirus D68 are very similar to other respiratory infections, including the flu, common cold and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, she said.
"It presents just like a cold," Hamilton said.
Mild symptoms of enterovirus D68 may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches, while severe symptoms may include wheezing and difficulty breathing, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The test for enterovirus D68 is expensive, so it's possible that a potential case of the virus wouldn't be confirmed, Hamilton explained. A positive test wouldn't change the treatment, which could include fluids and steroids, she added.
The hospital would conduct any testing needed to rule out other viruses that may respond to antiviral medications, Hamilton said. A final diagnosis could give parents peace of mind that hospital staff did everything they could to get answers about what made their child sick.
Because Sky Lakes has no pediatric intensive care unit, young patients with severe respiratory problems would likely be sent to another hospital, Hamilton said.
Hamilton recommends practicing good hygiene, including following cough and sneeze etiquette, disinfecting surfaces regularly, washing your hands, and avoiding kissing or sharing drinks with people.
It's important to wash your hands properly, however, Hamilton said. Avoid sick people if you can, and stay home if you are feeling ill to prevent the spread of illnesses, she added.
Hand washing doesn't need to be fancy, she said: use soap and warm water, and be sure to get in at least 20 seconds of friction, including all areas of the hands such as in between fingers and underneath nails. With her young children, Hamilton sings the 'ABC's' or the 'Happy Birthday' song slowly twice to reach the 20 second mark.
Make sure you wash hands before preparing food and eating, and after using the restroom, she said.
That doesn't mean you have to "live in a bubble," though, she said. In addition to other hygiene practices, Hamilton also recommends staying well-rested, hydrated, and eating healthy to help your body function properly and fend off infections.