St. Luke’s limits visits because of H1N1, joins ‘Stop the Flu’ campaign

Published 1:29 pm Wednesday, September 30, 2009

In addition, St. Luke&squo;s Hospital&squo;s emergency preparedness team has reviewed the availability of supplies and flu vaccines, as well as the CDC and North Carolina Public Health recommendations for this H1N1 flu outbreak.

Following these recommendations, St. Luke&squo;s Hospital&squo;s first action item is to minimize patient exposure to high-risk populations. Therefore, effective Thursday, Oct. 1, visitors under the age of 18 will not be permitted in St. Luke&squo;s Hospital unless they are seeking medical care.

&dquo;This is a temporary change in our current visitation policy, but considering the potential problems we can avoid, restricting young visitors will protect our patients and staff,&dquo; Rothell said, explaining that children and adolescents are more susceptible to H1N1 flu.

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&dquo;Early activity indicates the younger population has a higher incidence of infection, and contagion exists 24 hours prior to the on-set of symptoms such as fever,&dquo; Rothell said. &dquo;We&squo;d also like to ask visitors experiencing flu-like symptoms to stay home. If you have fever, sore throat, cough and body aches, then it is recommended that you stay home for at least 24 hours after you are fever free. Although this age restriction may be an inconvenience, it is temporary and may change over time as the situation changes,&dquo; Rothell added.

At St. Luke&squo;s Hospital, staff remains ready and on alert. &dquo;Our team has developed a plan that will minimize the extent of a potential H1N1 outbreak this fall, and as a precaution, we&squo;ve ordered in extra supplies of face masks, gloves, tissues, disinfectant and antiseptic wipes,&dquo; said Lori Oliver, ED Nurse Manager and Emergency Preparedness Team leader. &dquo;We are carefully monitoring developments from federal, state and county officials.

&dquo;Patients and visitors will be kept up-to-date on protocols to follow while in our hospital, and we will keep all employees informed about how best to respond to new or changing circumstances,&dquo; Oliver said.

Rothell added, &uot;St. Luke&squo;s primary goal is to put our patients first and ensure our community has all the information and resources needed to stay healthy, to keep their families healthy, and to treat patients with confidence.&dquo;

While employees have been immunized for seasonal flu, a vaccine for H1N1 is not yet ready. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved four H1N1 swine flu vaccines, with the first doses expected to be available within four weeks. This vaccine will help protect individuals from serious illness and death from influenza.

An estimated 45 million doses of the vaccines are expected by mid-October. Children and young adults, who seem to be more susceptible to the H1N1 swine flu, as well as pregnant women, health-care workers and people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease, are priority candidates for the vaccine.

&dquo;As we prepare &squo;Stop the Flu&squo; through education and preparation, it&squo;s important to remember three simple rules we should always follow. Wash your hands thoroughly on every possible occasion. Keep your family members at home if they develop flu-like symptoms. And be prepared to stay at home yourself if you experience symptoms,&dquo; Rothell said. &dquo;I&squo;ll add that it&squo;s not too late to get a seasonal flu shot.&dquo;

For more information, visit and click on our link to the CDC.

Note: Rutherford Hospital also recently announced visitiation limits, restricting children and teens because of the high rates of H1N1 flu among younger people. The hospital also said adult visitors should be limited to the patient&squo;s immediate family or the patient&squo;s designated caregiver. People who do not feel well should not visit the hospital at all, and people who do visit should use good cough etiquette and wash hands thoroughly before and after visiting.