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Hospitals restricting young vistors because of flu

Starting Thursday, Rowan Regional Medical Center and Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast will prohibit visitors younger than 18 because of concerns about swine flu, according to a statement posted on Carolinas HealthCare System’s Web site.
Other area hospitals in the Novant Health system, which includes Rowan Regional, and Carolinas HealthCare, which includes CMC-NorthEast in Concord, will also enforce the ban, the joint statement said.
“Except in extreme circumstances, visitors under 18 will not be permitted in the Charlotte area facilities unless they are patients seeking medical care,” the statement said.
Dr. Roger Ray, executive vice president and chief medical officer for Carolinas HealthCare, and Dr. Stephen Wallenhaupt, executive vice president and chief medical officer for Novant Health, said the new policy is a step to safeguard patients, staff members and adult visitors against swine flu, whose technical name is H1N1 influenza.
Early experience, they said, has shown that children and adolescents are more susceptible to the flu and have a higher incidence of infection than adults. In addition, children are often contagious before they exhibit symptoms.
“We know this change poses an inconvenience to families with patients in area facilities,” Wallenhaupt said. “But it is important to make this change effective now to limit the spread and impact of flu. Many patients, particularly newborns, pregnant women and patients with suppressed immune systems, are particularly vulnerable. It is vital that we take every precaution to protect them.”
In addition to limiting visitation by those under 18, the two hospital systems are urging everyone older than 18 not to visit hospitals if they have flu-like symptoms, such as sore throat, coughing, body ache or fever greater than 100 degrees.
These persons should not go out in public until they are fever-free for at least 24 hours, the statement said.
Ray advises everyone to get a seasonal flu shot as soon as possible and a swine flu shot when they become available. The swine flu vaccines are currently expected to be available in October.
“We can prevent flu outbreaks or at least delay their onset until more people have had time to get immunized,” Ray said. “The most important steps are the common sense precautions that have been publicized: Cover your cough. Wash your hands often. If you have flu-like symptoms, avoid contact with other people and stay home.”
Wallenhaupt noted that many people with flu-like symptoms do not need medical treatment and can be cared for at home using over-the-counter medications for symptomatic relief.
Officials at Carolinas HealthCare and Novant said that they are providing the same guidance to all of their affiliated regional hospitals in North Carolina and other states. They said the change will remain in effect until the incidence of flu has significantly decreased, noting that it may be several months before their hospitals could safely return to normal procedures.
In addition to Rowan Regional, affected Novant hospitals include Presbyterian Hospital, Presbyterian Hemby Children’s Hospital, Presbyterian Hospital Huntersville, Presbyterian Hospital Matthews and Presbyterian Orthopaedic Hospital.
In addition to CMC-NorthEast, affected Carolinas HealthCare hospitals include Carolinas Medical Center and Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, CMC-Lincoln, CMC-Mercy, CMC-Pineville, CMC-Randolph, CMC-Union, CMC-University, Carolinas Rehabilitation, Carolinas Rehabilitation-Mount Holly and Anson Community Hospital.
Hospitals around the nation have imposed similar restrictions.

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