Hospital visit restrictions to limit illness spread

Hospitals are seeing an increase in the number of respiratory illnesses including flu. In addition, there are several outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough) throughout the region.

Many hospitals in southwest Ohio, northern Kentucky and southeast Indiana are currently implementing limited visitation policies to minimize the spread of respiratory diseases to hospital patients.

The goal of limited visitation is to minimize the spread of respiratory diseases to hospital patients. For the hospitals that are limiting visitors, most are initiating the following restrictions:

*No visitation by anyone who is ill with any respiratory symptoms including coughing, sneezing, runny nose, fever, etc.

*No visitation by anyone under age 14

Hospitals’ decisions about visiting restrictions vary with the types of patients they serve and the specific services provided. For example, hospitals serving special patient populations such as obstetrics, pediatric, burn, transplant or ICU patients may institute more restrictive visitation policies.

Also, hospitals that provide obstetrical services may make exceptions to the restrictions for a newborn’s siblings who have received their flu vaccination at least 14 days prior to visiting. Hospitals will consider other exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

“Winter brings an increase in a number of respiratory illnesses, not just flu,” said Tonda Francis, vice president of the Greater Cincinnati Health Council.

“Although we know it’s difficult for family members and friends to not be able to visit their loved ones in the hospital, we also know visitors wouldn’t want to make their loved ones even sicker than they already are.”

This year there are two special concerns. The discovery that the 2014-15 flu vaccination may not offer the level of protection anticipated due to the mutations of the virus means more people who think they are covered could develop the flu. Further, the spread of pertussis remains an additional threat this season.

In addition to visitation restrictions, area hospitals have made other efforts both independently and collaboratively to protect their patients as much as possible from being exposed to respiratory illnesses including flu.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. It also recommends careful hand-washing, coughing and sneezing into a sleeve or a tissue, and staying home from work or school when you are sick.

Most area hospitals will discontinue visiting restrictions on or about March 15, unless respiratory illness is still highly prevalent in the Tristate at that time.