Children and flu restrictions
Felipe Gutierrez, MD, is the medical director of Infectious Disease at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix.
Question: I recently spent time in the hospital for an orthopedic procedure, and my grandchildren were unable to visit me due to flu restrictions. I don’t remember this occurring during previous hospitalizations; can you explain the change in hospital policy?
Answer: We are currently experiencing an atypical year as far as influenza is concerned. Unlike previous years, there has not been an end to the influenza season. This is due to the emergence of a novel strain of influenza virus. With the start of the school year and with the 2009-2010 “regular” flu season upon us we anticipate a surge in the number of cases in our community. Also, we know that school-aged children are more likely to get and spread the influenza virus.
Given that influenza is easily transmitted from person-to-person and that we don’t have experience with this new potentially dangerous virus, hospitals have initiated visitor restriction policies. This is an effort to protect our most vulnerable patients. We also want to protect our health care workers and visitors.
Hospitals have taken an active role in prevention. All who are in the hospital are encouraged to observe good hand hygiene by either washing their hands or using hand sanitizer. We are also encouraging our patients and staff to receive flu immunizations as appropriate to their personal health history.
Ultimately hospitals are responsible for maintaining a safe, healing environment for all who seek care, visit or work in our facility. We believe restricting children at this time, while sometimes inconvenient, protects all involved. The community can also do their part in reducing the spread of illness by staying home if sick, washing hands and getting vaccinated.