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Influenza Update: New Visitor Requirements

Pennsylvania is currently experiencing an early and severe influenza season. Influenza can be a very serious disease, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported current influenza activities have now reached critical levels.

To protect our patients and staff, Magee has declared an influenza emergency. We ask hospital visitors who are experiencing flu-like symptoms to postpone their visits until they have returned to health. Additionally, to curb the spread of influenza, children 16 years of age or younger will not be permitted to visit the inpatient care units, and will have limited access to hospital sites.

For questions, please see our Influenza Emergency Protocol FAQ. If your questions are not answered here, please call 800-96-MAGEE for more information. Thank you for your cooperation and your continued support of the health of our patients.

Influenza Emergency Protocol FAQ

What is influenza?

Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a contagious, viral infection that affects the respiratory system and can spread quickly. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times, can lead to death. Some people, such as older people, young children and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.

Why has Magee instituted an influenza emergency this year? What does this mean?

Every flu season is different. The 2012-2013 influenza season started early and remains high throughout Pennsylvania and the entire United States.

To protect our staff and patients, many of whom cannot risk respiratory illness due to already weakened immune systems, we are restricting visitation to prevent the spread of the flu through the hospital. We ask hospital visitors who are experiencing flu-like symptoms to postpone their visits until they have returned to health. Additionally, children 16 years of age or younger will not be permitted to visit the inpatient care units, and will have limited access to hospital sites.

How will these policies reduce the spread of influenza to patients and staff?

The flu is very contagious, and can be spread person to person. The virus is spread mainly through droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or even talk. These droplets can land in the mouths and nose of people who are nearby, or can even be inhaled into the lungs. It can also be spread when a person touches a surface or object with the flu virus on it and then touches their own mouth or nose.

Because it is so easy to spread, anyone who comes to the hospital with the flu is likely to put others at risk. By limiting visitation, we can reduce the likelihood of someone inadvertently spreading the flu to our patients and staff. While we understand limiting visitation can be an inconvenience, the health and safety of our patients and staff are our primary concern.

I haven't been feeling well, but I'm not sure it's the flu. What are the common symptoms of influenza?

If you aren't feeling well, regardless of whether or not it is the flu, you should not come to visit your loved one at Magee. There are many illnesses other than the flu that are contagious, and for the safety of our patients and staff, we ask that you postpone your visit until you are in better health.

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever, or feeling feverish/chills (Not everyone with the flu will have a fever.)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though it is more common in children that adults.

I had the flu, but I am starting to feel better. When am I allowed to visit my loved one at Magee?

Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop, and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days. To be safe, we ask you postpone your visit to Magee until after this time period, even if you are beginning to feel better. For the safety of our patients and staff, visitors may be screened for signs and symptoms of influenza-like illness.

I have a child who is 16 or under that would like to visit their loved one at Magee. Are you really not going to allow them to visit?

While anyone who has the flu can spread it to others, children can pass the virus to others for a greater length of time than adults (more than 7 days).  For this reason and concern for the safety of our patients and staff, children 16 years of age and under will not be permitted to visit inpatient care units and will have limited access to hospital sites.

In certain circumstances, special arrangements can be made for children 16 and under to visit their loved ones at Magee. Families are encouraged to speak with the nurse manager or in-house supervisor to determine whether these special arrangements are possible.

How long will Magee's influenza emergency protocol remain in effect?

Magee's influenza emergency protocol will remain in effect until the end of flu season. Because the timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season, patients and families will be notified when the emergency protocol is lifted. We anticipate it will remain in effect through the end of March 2013, though we cannot be certain.

What can I do to help avoid spreading influenza?

The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu.

Avoid close contact. 
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick, too.

Stay home when you are sick.
If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

Clean your hands.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

Practice other good health habits.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013)

I have more questions that are not answered here. Who should I contact?

If you have questions about the flu in general, please visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is an excellent resource. Learn more at cdc.gov/flu.

If you have any questions about Magee's Influenza Emergency protocol, please call Carol Vinci, Patient Safety Officer at (215) 587-3333.