January 23, 2013LITTLETON — Littleton Regional Hospital has adopted a policy designed to protect people during this tough flu season. The measure restricts those under the age of 13 from visiting the hospital or physician offices, unless they are seeking care.
Gail Clark, Director of Marketing and Community Relations, said the policy is temporary. "We're just taking precautions to keep our patients healthy," she said. No specific problem at LRH prompted the restrictions, Clark noted.
Clark said that it is common for hospitals to restrict visitors, especially during a difficult flu season.
In a statement, LRH requests that people with respiratory or flu-like symptoms should refrain from visiting patients or staff at the hospital and physician practices. Those visiting at risk patients will be asked to wear masks and perform hand hygiene.
Common symptoms include chills, fever, sore throat, headache, muscle pain, and general discomfort.
As an additional precaution, the hospital asks those visiting the intensive care unit and obstetrics to check in at the nurses' station.
Influenza is a very serious respiratory illness. Individuals sometimes refer to gastro-intestinal problems as having a case of "the flu." Although vomiting and nausea can accompany influenza, the infectious disease is far more dangerous.
Influenza is often transmitted through the air. Covering sneezes and coughs is important, as well as frequent hand washing. Vaccination is especially recommended for those most at risk. This includes children, the elderly, health care workers, those with chronic diseases, and individuals with compromised immune systems.
Those who are allergic to eggs or people who have had a reaction to a previous influenza vaccine should not get vaccinated.
Based on information from the Centers for Disease Control, the incidence of influenza-like illness was high in New Hampshire and Vermont through the week of January 12. The virus was considered less prevalent in Maine.
Historical data from the CDC estimates that between 3,000 and 49,000 people in the United States were killed by influenza each year between 1976 and 2006. A worldwide pandemic from 1918 to 1920 killed tens of millions of people.