Berkshire hospitals take flu precautions amid spike in cases


PITTSFIELD -- After a recent spike in local flu cases, two local hospitals are taking precautions to prevent the spread of germs.

"The number of cases in the state the last two weeks has risen to the high level," said Dr. Paula Aucoin, the medical director of infection and control for Berkshire Medical Center.

Following the recent increase, Berkshire Medical Center and Fairview Hospital are temporarily changing their visitation policy. Those with flu or flu-like symptoms are being asked to refrain from visiting the hospital. Visitors with flu-like symptoms who visit the hospital will be asked to wear a mask if they visit. Children under 14, who are particularly prone to the flu, will not be permitted to visit

North Adams Regional Hospital has not implemented a change to its visitation policy, according to spokesman Paul Hopkins.

For January, Berkshire County hospital officials are reporting 64 positive flu cases. Nearly half of the January cases for Berkshire Medical Center and Fairview Hospital came in the last week. North Adams Regional Hospital reported that all its flu cases have come this month.

Up to this week, Berkshire Medical Center reported 36 positive cases, including 11 patients admitted to the hospital. Fairview Hospital reported 14 confirmed cases, and North Adams Regional reported many suspected cases but only 14 cases as well.

Overall, this year's outbreak is much tamer than last year's. The state Department of Public Health last week downgraded the spread to regional and the intensity to minimal. Central and Western Massachusetts have reported the fewest number of cases.

The flu doesn't typically spike until mid-January or early February, so the public is being urged to get a flu vaccination. Individuals are encouraged to get a vaccination, avoid the spread of germs and take anti-viral drugs to alleviate flu symptoms.

"We are advising, if you have not been vaccinated for the flu virus, you do so," BMC spokesman Michael Leary said. "It's not too late to have that done."

The flu virus had peaked by mid-January last year, but it's been a kinder flu season -- so far.

"This year seems more typical," Aucoin said.

To reach John Sakata:

or (413) 496-6240.

On Twitter: @jsakata


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