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Containing illnesses

How Augusta Health prevents the spread of contagious diseases

Have you ever feared coming to the hospital due to concerns that you will get sick? The flu and diarrhea-related illnesses, such as norovirus, are common infections whose severe symptoms bring people to the hospital. They also are extremely contagious.

Fortunately, there are processes in place at Augusta Health so patients who receive testing for communicable diseases are not spreading them to other patients. Planning actually begins before an ill patient sets foot in the hospital. When a patient registers for an office visit or test at any of Augusta Health’s testing locations, he or she should notify the staff of cough, flu symptoms or diarrhea in order to best prepare for the visit, notes Allison Baroco, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Augusta Health.

“By knowing a patient’s symptoms before they even arrive for an office visit or testing, we can help the patient navigate and expedite their visit to prevent the spread of infection,” she says.

Augusta Health also provides masks at most entrance sites for patients being tested for communicable diseases or if they are experiencing an uncontrollable cough. The mask allows other patients and hospital staff to stay safe from exposure of common and serious illnesses; it also signals to care providers to guide the patient through the testing process as quickly as possible. Patients who are experiencing vomiting or diarrhea-related symptoms will have easy access to bathrooms in a more private setting. Besides the flu, other communicable diseases include pertussis (whooping cough) and tuberculosis.

After their visits, patients are encouraged to avoid public areas and go home to rest. Ill caregivers or family members should try to avoid the hospital until they are well. They should consider calling or sending friends or family members to check on loved ones in the hospital while they are ill at home. Once a patient’s test results are available, the referring physician will follow up with any needed course of treatment. 

How to stop the spread of germs

Avoid people who are sick: This can be difficult, but keeping a distance from those who are sick is one of the best defenses. You should also stay home, if possible, when you are sick.

Cover your mouth: When coughing or sneezing, use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose. This helps prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, such as the flu.

Wash your hands: Germs live on everything we touch so it’s important to wash your hands with soap and warm water as often as possible. Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will help, too, though soap and water is recommended for diarrheal illnesses.

Clean high-touch surfaces: It’s a good idea to clean frequently touched items, such as your cell phone, keyboard and steering wheel, with a disinfecting wipe.