In rare move, local hospital to screen visitors at front door for flu-like symptoms

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- EvergreenHealth in Kirkland will begin screening all visitors coming into the hospital beginning Tuesday morning for flu-like symptoms. The hospital says this is the first time in nine years they’ve implemented these screenings to curb the spread of flu.

The screenings will happen at the entrance to the hospital wings of the EvergreenHealth campus, not to any other specialty clinics.

Nurses will greet each visitor and ask them basic questions like whether they’ve had a cough, fever or runny nose to determine if they show signs of flu-like symptoms, and whether they’ll be granted access into the hospital to visit patients.

“If they are felt to be ill, they will be asked to seek care, if they are screened and deemed OK, they will be getting a badge with a little sticker and then they will gain access to the unit,” said Dr. Francis Riedo, a physician at EvergreenHealth.

Each day of the week will have a different color sticker. Riedo says all adults will be screened and no children under the age of 16 will be allowed to visit patients. He says the hospital will make exceptions in critical situations for children to visit family.

Riedo says the flu numbers are so extreme and reached a critical level that the hospital is taking this extra precaution to protect patients.

“I describe it as a mile wide and an inch deep. We’ve had widespread influenza in the U.S. for five consecutive weeks, I have not seen this,” said Riedo.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releases a weekly map showing flu activity across the country. Washington state falls under the “widespread” activity states.

Riedo says every year the flu tends to start in the South and spread upward across the country, with Washington usually among the last states to get widespread activity. This year, he says, the flu started in the South like usual but began to spread on both coasts first before coming into the center of the country.

EvergreenHealth expects to continue the screenings for several weeks until the numbers taper off. Riedo says we are at the height of flu season in mid-February and that it usually decreases as spring approaches.

He says the flu shot is still available and still recommended.

Riedo adds that wearing a mask can also help as another barrier to prevent catching the virus in public from someone who may be sick.