New Respiratory Illness Control Effort in Vermont’s Hospitals


For Immediate Release: October 28, 2003

Media Contact: Vermont Department of Health
Communications Office

If You have Fever with Cough or Rash—Ask for a Mask!

Cough, cold and flu season is here and, beginning this week, visitors to Vermont’s hospitals will be asked to do their part to keep respiratory illnesses from spreading.

If you have a fever with cough or rash, let us know—we’ll get you a mask is the message carried by signs and bookmarks that will be posted and distributed widely in lobbies, emergency departments and waiting rooms.

The bookmarks also reinforce the basics of respiratory etiquette, or Good Health Manners: cover your mouth and nose every time you sneeze or cough; put used tissues into the trash; wash hands well and often with soap and water, or use an alcohol hand sanitizer.

“Simple surgical masks are an effective, low-tech way to keep many respiratory illnesses from spreading in the hospital” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Cort Lohff. “Health care professionals are used to wearing masks, but this will be something new for patients or visitors to health care facilities. I urge Vermonters to take these basic infection control measures to heart.”

Respiratory diseases can be spread to others from tiny droplets of moisture that exit the nose or mouth of an infected person when they cough, sneeze or talk. The common cold, flu, whooping cough, bacterial meningitis, mumps, measles, rubella, SARS and smallpox are all examples of diseases that can be spread by droplets in the air. Fever with a cough or rash are common symptoms of these diseases.

“That’s why we’re asking people who have these symptoms to take the extra precaution of putting on a mask as a courtesy to others in the health care setting,” said Dr. Lohff.

“It will seem unusual at first, but we expect that it will become routine procedure soon. This will put us in a much better position to deal with infectious diseases like whooping cough, which has seen a resurgence in Vermont, or SARS, which could.”

The signs and bookmarks were developed by the Vermont Department of Health and the Vermont Infection Control Practitioners Association. All of Vermont’s hospitals are participating in the effort. Supplies are also available for health care centers and facilities across the state.