Swine flu concerns prompt Rowan Regional, others to ban visitors under 18

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

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 joint 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 statement said.
“Except in extreme circumstances, visitors under18 will not be permitted in the Charlotte area facilities unless they are patients seeking medical care,” the statement said. “The joint decision was made in response to concerns about flu and is endorsed by the Mecklenburg County Department of Health.”
Dr. Roger Ray, executive vice president and chief medical officer for CHS, 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 flu.
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.