If you're heading to a Rockford hospital for an appointment, or maybe to visit a loved one, be careful who or what you bring with you. High flu cases cause area health systems to ban visitors under a certain age.
OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center, Rockford Health System, and SwedishAmerican Health System are following recommendations from the Illinois Department of Public Health and putting the following restrictions in place, effective immediately:
"We're doing this to try and curb the transmission of influenza." -says OSF St. Anthony Medical Center Infection Control Epidemiologist Larry Brown.
Teenagers and children are not only likely to catch the virus, but they could give the flu to people staying in hospitals. Plus, flu patients are being asked to wear a mask. For Rockford, this type of restriction hasn't happened in years.
"We did this last when we had the H1N1 epidemic in 2009." -says Brown.
Hospital administrators say there were non-patients under the age of 18 inside facilities Tuesday, when the announcement was made. Starting Wednesday, anyone calling to make an appointment, or showing up to visit, will be notified of these restrictions. But, there will be some exceptions.
"There may be end-of-life situations for a person in a hospital and we want to be as compassionate as possible." -says SwedishAmerican Chief Medical & Chief Quality Officer Kathleen Kelly.
Brown agrees, saying "If there are situations, case-by-case, like an end-of-life issue with a patient who is terminally ill and wants to say goodbye."
Administrators don't know how long these visitor rules will last.
"That's hard to know, it's going to depend on the activity of the flu virus. A typical flu season may run through February or March." -says Brown.
Patients are recommended to wear a mask if they have cold or flu symptoms, wash their hands frequently, and cover coughs and sneezes. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some have also reported diarrhea and vomiting.
The hospitals and the Winnebago County Health Department are reminding area residents that flu shots are still available for those who have not yet been vaccinated. For more information, visit the Health Department website.
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