Hospital issues visitor restrictions to battle flu

Published Jan 9, 2018 at 1:10pm

In an effort to prevent the spread of the influenza virus, Rome Memorial Hospital has issued temporary age restrictions on visitors.

Effective immediately, only healthy adults, 18-years-old and older, will be allowed to visit patients in the hospital and the Residential Health Care Facility. Hospital administrators also ask that anyone exhibiting flu-like symptoms or gastrointestinal illness to not visit patients or residents.

In addition, everyone entering the hospital is being asked to use hand sanitizer upon arrival and as they leave the building. Masks will be available at all entrances to the hospital for visitors who would like to use them as an extra precaution.

The flu can be spread through the air by coughs and sneezes, and is also transferred from person-to-person on surfaces. Using good respiratory hygiene, like covering your cough and discarding used tissues immediately, can reduce transmission.

It is important to know that the flu can be spread before symptoms even begin, so hospital staff is asking that anyone who is not feeling well refrain from visiting or volunteering. Those who are sick should not visit or volunteer in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, day care centers, etc., and avoid crowds. Flu can spread rapidly in these environments.

Visitors to the hospital’s maternity unit will be limited to the newborn’s parents, grandparents and birthing coaches. This is because newborns are at greater risk of complications from the flu.

In addition, adults coming to the hospital and off campus facilities for testing or treatment are being asked to make arrangements for their children rather than have them accompany them to their appointments. Minimizing the risk of exposure may help in decreasing transmission of the flu and other seasonal illnesses.

Visitors to the hospital’s third floor Residential Health Care Facility who feel ill with any type of upper respiratory or gastrointestinal problems should delay their visit to protect our residents.

Signs alerting hospital visitors to the restrictions will be posted at all entry points.

The restrictions will remain in effect until further notice, according to Amy Carissimo-Harris, director of Infection Prevention and Control. 

How can you protect yourself and your family from the flu?

“We are encouraging all our employees, and everyone else, who have not received the flu vaccine this season to get their flu shot,” said Carissimo-Harris.  “Washing or sanitizing your hands often is a good way to protect yourself. Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth as much as possible especially if you haven’t had a chance to clean your hands."

Carissimo-Harris offered additional tips to help people prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like flu:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu–like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • Vaccination is best way to prevent seasonal flu, Carissimo-Harris said. Seasonal flu vaccine formulations may change every year, because circulating flu viruses change.

“The CDC recommends all people ages 6 months and older get vaccinated every year, even if the vaccine is not a perfect match,” Carissimo-Harris said. “Antibiotics are not effective against the flu. The flu is a virus, and antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. Most healthy adults do not need antivirals to fight the flu, so it may unlikely you are prescribed anything for it. Antivirals, when taken early, may be helpful in reducing the severity of symptoms and complications with high risk populations. Your health care provider will evaluate your need for these drugs.”

Signs and symptoms of the flu include: fever/chills, sore throat, cough, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, runny or stuffy nose. The degree of illness from the flu can be very mild to severe. Someone might think they have a cold and they actually have the flu. For most people symptoms only last a few days.

More information about seasonal influenza can be found at romehospital.org and www.cdc.gov.