Georgia Health Sciences Health System is temporarily restricting hospital visitation of friends and family age 17 and under in an effort to help prevent the spread of influenza virus and other circulating respiratory illnesses. In addition, no guest who is experiencing flu-like symptoms should visit a patient in the Georgia Health Sciences Medical Center or Children’s Medical Center until further notice.
“Influenza has arrived in our area,” said Dr. Peter Rissing, Chief of Infectious Diseases at GHS Medical Center. “Unfortunately, the flu is easily spread from person to person through respiratory droplets and contaminated surfaces. We are trying to protect our patients, families and employees by limiting exposure.”
GHS officials made the decision in response to the recent escalation of flu among the school-aged population in the greater Augusta area, an increase in respiratory complaints among Emergency Department patients and a rise in the number of flu hospitalizations.
“Children under the age of 5, especially ages 2 and younger, are at increased risk of flu complications, such as pneumonia,” Rissing said. “When historically looking at seasonal flu trends, those children spread influenza easily through home or school interaction. Due to the increased activity and risk for complications, it was deemed best to not have these children visit while we are seeing increased activity among our patients and staff.”
Flu activity in the United States typically peaks between December and March, and the timing of peak activity changes from year to year. Based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data for the week of Nov. 25 through Dec. 1, there has been more flu activity earlier this year than in previous seasons. In addition, CDC data indicates widespread activity in eight states, including South Carolina, and that Georgia is seeing flu in multiple regions. From Oct. 1 through Dec. 1, there have been 417 cases of laboratory confirmed influenza hospitalizations due to influenza.
“The best way to keep the flu from spreading is to stay home,” Rissing advises. He said that symptoms include fever of 100 degrees or higher and any of the following:
• Cough and/or sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Headache and/or body aches
• Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children)
This is not the first time the health system has implemented temporary visitation restrictions due to flu.
“We take the health and safety of our patients, families and staff very seriously,” Rissing said. “While it could pose a minor inconvenience to some, it is for the greater good.”
For more information on the influenza virus, including prevention and treatment, visit the CDC website.
Georgia Health Sciences University is the state's public academic health center. The enterprise includes the Medical College of Georgia and the Colleges of Allied Health Sciences, Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies and Nursing as well as Georgia Health Sciences Medical Center and Georgia Health Sciences Children's Medical Center. GHSU is a unit of the University System of Georgia and an equal opportunity institution.