In order to reduce the spread of seasonal influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other contagious illnesses, Davis Hospital, McKay-Dee Hospital, and Ogden Regional Medical Center have established visitor restrictions to keep patients safe.
Hospital officials are asking people who are sick with a fever, cough, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or who have any other symptoms of illness to refrain from visiting.
“Many of our respiratory viruses, like influenza or RSV, are highly contagious,” said Dr. Christine Nefcy, a pediatrician at McKay-Dee Hospital. “During their peak seasons, we restrict visitor access for our patients’ safety.
“For instance, our infants in the NICU or newborn floor have immature immune systems, and what may cause just a mild upper respiratory infection in an adult can be devastating for a baby.”
Even on adult patient floors, Nefcy said, many patients are medically fragile and need to be protected from community illness.
The hospitals also are restricting any visitors younger than 14.
“Newborns have such low resistance to any type of virus. We want to keep our babies safe, so we exclude those age 14 and under in labor and delivery or in the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units, because many times those under the age of 14 are asymptomatic and don’t necessarily know they are carrying a virus,” said Marsha Stewart, Davis Hospital and Medical Center registered nurse and director of women’s services.
Craig Bielik, hospital communications director at Ogden Regional Medical Center, said children at the age of 14 have become more responsible for hygienic behavior and better understand the concepts of maintaining good health habits.
“Adults tend to be better at things like blowing their noses in a tissue, washing their hands, covering their mouths when they cough, than children are,” Nefcy said. “Children are more likely to have an active illness.
“For instance, if an adult has seen a specific viral strain before, their immune system will fight it off without getting them sick.”
But a child, particularly a young one, she said, is more likely to be introduced to an illness for the first time. They will get ill, generate the appropriate antibodies to fight it off, then get better, all the while shedding more virus that spreads the illness.
All three hospitals are seeing an increase in influenza, stomach viruses and RSV as well as the common cold and human metapneumovirus, which causes symptoms similar to RSV.
Bielik said the restrictions are also in place to protect the public and not just the patients.
“Staying away from our hospital as a visitor when you’re ill is important to protect our patients and yourself,” he said. “We must be careful to avoid spreading infections and diseases to everyone, especially during the flu season. Many of our patients have compromised immune systems and are vulnerable to bacteria and viruses.”
However, “people should not hesitate to come to the ER in an emergency,” said Dr. Travis Nelson, Davis Hospital and Medical Center emergency physician. “We use isolation precautions for those diagnosed with communicable illnesses.
“We also provide masks to patients and visitors in the ER and throughout the hospital to help limit the spread of illness.”
Anyone visiting patients and showing signs of illness will probably be asked to leave. Additional restrictions may be enforced depending on the unit and patient being visited.