Hygiene tripods, algorithms and more: How St. Louis University Hospital is battling flu season

The flu season started early in St. Louis, compared to national trends, and hit the area hard, according to Nirav Patel, MD, CMO at SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital and SLUCare physician in infectious diseases and critical care medicine.

Dr. Patel told Becker's Hospital Review the hospital's biggest challenge in managing the flu is keeping its large population of chronic disease patients healthy, since the flu — especially H3 strains — can exacerbate these conditions.

SLUH has taken numerous steps to limit flu transmission at the hospital and ensure timely treatment for flu patients.

Each flu season, the hospital sets up hygiene tripods throughout the facility, including at all major entrances and elevator banks leading to patient care areas. The tripods are stocked with alcohol-based hand sanitizer, face masks and Kleenex. "The idea is to provide additional access [to flu prevention methods] for staff, visitors and whoever else comes to the facility during flu season," Dr. Patel says.

While SLUH always runs a fairly busy emergency department at high capacity, the hospital made extra efforts to ensure smooth patient flow amid an influx of flu patients. The hospital implemented existing surge protocols, along with rapid diagnostic and treatment algorithms, to evaluate flu patients and discharge healthier individuals from the ED without an inpatient stay, according to Dr. Patel. SLUH has also partnered with other facilities in the SSM Health network to transfer or receive patients who require different levels of care.

Most of the U.S. is still experiencing elevated flu activity. However, Dr. Patel said flu cases are finally starting to taper off at SLUH.

More articles on infection control: 
86 infected with norovirus at 2018 Olympic Winter Games
Northwell rolls out one-of-a-kind flu tracker for Long Island, NYC
Salmonella, norovirus and measles: 9 recent and ongoing outbreaks


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