Hospitals impose visitor restrictions in effort to control flu

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter



The surging flu season is prompting more area hospitals to impose visitor restrictions.

Flu hospitalizations are on the rise and many of the cases have been serious, even life-threatening, according to Legacy Health System. To protect patients and caregivers and to minimize the spread of the flu, PeaceHealth, Legacy Health and Providence Health & Services implemented temporary changes to visitor policies at their hospitals in the Portland-Vancouver area.

PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center is asking that people who are sick (fever higher than 100 degrees and a cough or sore throat) do not visit the hospital. PeaceHealth Southwest is also limiting the number of visitors in the hospital to two people per patient.

The hospital has additional precautions in effect in special care units, which includes adult and neonatal intensive care units, the cardiovascular intensive care unit and the family birth center.

In the special care units, visitors will be asked to review a quick health screening and may have to follow time restrictions. In addition, the units are limiting visitors to close family members (children and significant others) and is not allowing visitors younger than 12, except siblings.

At Legacy hospitals, including Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, patients can have no more than two visitors at one time. Visitors who are 18 or younger are limited to immediate family members only.

Providence hospitals in Oregon are allowing only two visitors per patient in the hospital at any one time.

At Providence family birth centers, all visitors (including immediate family members) must be 18 or older and only two designated support persons per family may attend the birth. In addition, healthy newborns will room with their mothers to limit any potential exposure.

In other areas of Providence hospitals, the only permitted visitors younger than 18 are immediate family members. In addition, patients with a fever and a cough or sore throat are being asked to wear a mask.

The flu is widespread in about half of the country, including Washington and Oregon, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The most prominent strain infecting people in Washington and across the country is H1N1, which was first introduced in 2009 and nicknamed "swine flu."

In Washington, five people have died from influenza this flu season. No one in Clark County has died from the flu this year.