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Utilizing Face Masks to Curtail Rising Respiratory Virus’s Incidence in University of Iowa Health Care

In an effort to manage the upsurge of respiratory infections during the prevalent virus season, University of Iowa Health Care (UIHC) has temporarily instituted a mask requirement across various facilities and patient groups. The decision, which came into play on January 11, mandates employees, patients under treatment, and visitors at the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital to adorn face masks. This measure has also been extended to all units within Children and Women’s Services, the adult Gynecology and Postpartum Newborn unit, Labor and Delivery, and the Adult Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant Program within the Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Therapies unit. The decision is backed by the institution’s Infection Prevention team, which has been closely monitoring the emergence and spread of these respiratory infections.

One of the team’s key members, Karen Brust, who ranks as an infectious disease specialist with UIHC and also serves as a clinical associate professor of epidemiology, noted that many members of the community have already spotted signs of increased illnesses in their social circles. Brust pointed to the systematic approach they’ve undertaken to understand the gravity of the situation. Data has been gathered from various sources such as outpatient visits, emergencies, and hospitalizations. According to data released by the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services, as of January 5, the state presented a 15.8% positive number of cases for influenza and 14.6% for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Exploring national trends helps predict the most common virus strains, the most vulnerable age groups, and the efficacy of the flu vaccine on a yearly basis. The current mask requirement decision is aimed at safeguarding the health of patients, staff, employees, and visitors alike, states Derek Zhorne, the associate chief medical officer of UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. The pediatric and infant patient group is frequently impacted by RSV, particularly during late fall and winter season.

Staff and visitors across the aforementioned units are mandated to wear face masks, which have been made readily available in these areas. Nonetheless, face mask usage outside these units, specifically within public spaces like the hospital’s front entrance, remains optional. The hospital has also introduced temporary visitor restrictions, only permitting visitors aged 12 years or older and restricting visitor count to four unique individuals per hospital stay for both adult and pediatric inpatient units.

To further nurture safety within the hospital premises, especially given the vulnerability of the pediatric patient group, the pediatric intensive care unit has also been incorporated under these new protective measures. Brust strongly advocates for vaccination against flu, COVID-19, and RSV as significant boosters in thwarting the spread of respiratory virus, alongside the adherence to the new preventive measures. Any changes to these measures will be contingent on the decrease in respiratory infections.

Source: https://dailyiowan.com/2024/01/24/university-of-iowa-health-care-implements-temporary-mask-requirements-in-some-hospital-units/

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