UF Health Shands Hospital said 400 patients tested positive for influenza since Jan. 1.
Dr. Nicole Iovine, a UF epidemiologist, which is a specialist in infectious diseases, said the hospital saw an unusually high number of cases this flu season, which is from October to February. Because someone infected with the flu can spread the virus 24 hours before noticing symptoms, it’s hard to prevent, she said.
“It’s a tricky virus,” Iovine said. “If you look to your left and you look to your right, any one of those people could be incubating and spreading the flu.”
She said that, unlike the common cold, the symptoms of the flu are immediate, and people can often remember when they started feeling sick. Symptoms include coughing, sneezing, headache, body aches, fever, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, Iovine said.
Shands started restricting the number visitors to two per patient and required visitors to wear an ear-loop mask while in patient units Tuesday, Iovine said. Shands also restricted children under 12 from visiting adult patients and anyone under 18 from visiting pediatric patients, Rossana Passaniti, a UF Health spokesperson, wrote in an email.
Iovine said she strongly recommended everyone, even those who’ve already been infected with the flu this year, to receive the flu shot, as they can still be infected by a different strain of the virus.
“I strongly encourage those who have not been vaccinated to get vaccinated,” Iovine said.