Flu-like illness hits high level, Va. and N.C. officials recommend masks in hospitals

Public health officials in Hampton roads and Northeast North Carolina say the seasonal influenza-like illness is now at a high level.

Local area hospitals and healthcare systems are recommending that all patients and visitors wear masks to help prevent the flu from spreading.

The masks are recommended in hospitals, medical facilities, and physician practices.

The masks and hand sanitizer will be provided at facility entrances.

Health officials say even those who have had the flu vaccine should wear masks.

Although vaccines are the best way to prevent the flu, masking provides an added layer of protection from the potentially deadly disease.

As healthcare providers say their goal is to protect the community from disease. Data suggests infected persons can transmit the virus as much as 24 hours before displaying symptoms.

The community-wide recommendation helps protect patients, visitors and staff from exposure to flu, even before symptoms occur.

Individuals displaying symptoms of influenza-like illness are asked not to visit patients at area hospitals. Symptoms of flu include fever and respiratory illness symptoms such as cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, chills, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

The recommendation to wear a mask when entering healthcare facilities will remain in effect during the flu season while the disease is at widespread levels.