Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital implementing public masking initiative to combat the flu

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HALIFAX COUNTY (WSLS 10) - If you walk in to the main lobby at Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital any time soon, you'll likely notice boxes of surgical masks and signs urging you to wear one.

"At Sentara Halifax Regional, as well as in our outpatient clinic and other Sentara facilities," said Meredith Weddle, the hospital's infection control practitioner, explaining where the masks and signs are located.

Some hospitals may not see an increase in flu cases or people with flu-like symptoms and therefore may chose not to implement this initiative, but Sentara Halifax is seeing an increase.

"We have seen an increase in patients that have symptoms, flu symptoms, such as runny nose, cough, sore throat, fever, body aches, nausea, vomiting," said Weddle.

Hospital staff who have not had a flu shot yet this season are now also required to wear masks.

That's actually motivated some to get their flu shot, further helping reduce the potential transmission of the flu.

"I've had a couple," said Dee Gregory, an occupational health nurse at the hospital. "They came and said 'can I get a flu shot so I don't have to wear that mask?' I was, like, 'yeah!'"

According to the Virginia Department of Health, the flu has been widespread for about three weeks now, which is up from this time last year when it was only regional.

The nurses say there's no telling what's behind the change and encourage people to wear a mask any time they go out in public as long as the flu remains widespread.

The mask initiative will remain in place at the hospital until the state health department declares the flu no longer widespread in Virginia.

If it drops and increases again, the mask initiative will be reinstituted.

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