Upstate hospitals try to limit visits by children

dustin.wyatt@shj.comJanuary 20, 2014 

SPARTANBURG Due to a growing number of flu cases statewide, several Upstate hospitals are trying to limit the number of children who visit patients.

From Sept. 29 to Jan. 11, 1,049 people in South Carolina were hospitalized and 30 died from the flu, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. Eight deaths were reported between Jan. 5 and Jan. 11.

In North Carolina, 27 people have died of the flu since Oct. 5, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Signs limiting visits appear in hospitals in Greenville, Anderson, Pickens and Laurens counties requesting that children refrain from visiting patients.

Flu symptoms are usually more severe than cold symptoms and come on quickly. Symptoms of seasonal flu include sore throat, fever, headache, muscle aches as well as soreness, congestion and cough.

“If you become ill, the most important thing to do is stay home and rest so that you get well and you don't infect others,” said Megan Parker, infection preventionist at St. Luke's Hospital in Columbus, N.C. “If (your condition worsens), it is important to seek additional medical attention.”

Officials said restricting children from visiting hospitals helps protect patients from contracting the flu and respiratory illnesses, which are at high levels in parts of the Upstate. The measure also helps protect visiting children from becoming ill and can help curtail the spread of the illnesses.

A mandatory visitation restriction is not currently in effect at any of the hospitals. All visitors, regardless of health or age, are urged to use hand sanitizer before entering and leaving a patient's room.

“We are monitoring the spread of influenza activity in the Upstate and across South Carolina,” Melissa Overman, DHEC's medical director for the Upstate region, said in a statement. “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 realize each patient's needs is 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.

Meanwhile, health officials are urging community members to get flu vaccines if they have not already done so. A list of where to get flu vaccines can be found here: www.scdhec.gov/flu/clinics.asp

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