Hospitals ask for temporary restrictions on flu visitations

UPSTATE — Hospitals in Greenville, Anderson, Pickens and Laurens counties have joined together to request that children refrain from visiting hospitalized patients because of the level of flu and respiratory illnesses now in the Upstate. Those hospitals also request that anyone with signs of the flu, respiratory illness or cold also temporarily refrain from visiting hospitalized patients.
Hospitals include AnMed Health, Baptist Easley, Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, Cannon Memorial Hospital and Greenville Health System, which now includes Laurens County Memorial Hospital.
The age-specific request applies to all children under the age of 18.
Hospital officials said the measure would help protect their patients from contracting the flu and respiratory illnesses, which are at high levels in parts of the Upstate. The measure would also help protect visiting children from themselves becoming ill and so help contain the spread of the illnesses in the broader community.
A mandatory visitation restriction is not currently in effect at any of the hospitals, but infection prevention experts at all the hospitals urged visitors to follow the suggested precautions because of the potential serious illness that can result from influenza.
According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, a total of 30 deaths related to the flu have occurred statewide since Sept. 29, 2013.
“We are monitoring the spread of influenza activity in the Upstate and across South Carolina,” said Melissa Overman, D.O., DHEC’s medical director for the Upstate region. “Reports of cases and hospitalizations have been rising, further emphasizing the need for continued efforts to vaccinate against this serious illness, as well as take other preventive steps such as covering your cough with your sleeve or a tissue, stay home if you are sick, and wash your hands often with soap and water.”
Hospital officials said they realized that each patient’s needs were different and that, depending on the severity of the illness, the timing of visits from loved ones might be vital. In those cases, officials urged visitors to wear face masks and wash hands often in order to protect the patients. Hospitals have face masks and hand sanitizer available throughout their facilities. All visitors, regardless of health or age, are urged to use hand sanitizer before entering and leaving a patient’s room.
“I would like to commend these Upstate hospitals for working together to take proactive steps for the prevention of exposure and spread of the influenza virus in their respective facilities and the promotion of influenza prevention measures like immunization and proper hand hygiene in the communities they each serve”, stated Dr. Rick Foster, Senior VP for Quality and Patient Safety with the South Carolina Hospital Association.
Meanwhile, health officials are urging community members to get flu vaccines if they have not already done so. While it typically takes two weeks to achieve maximum protection from the vaccine, limited protection is available sooner.