Swine Flu Fears Prompt Hospital Changes

Visitors barred at some SoCal hospitals

By Yvonne Beltzer
|  Wednesday, Oct 21, 2009  |  Updated 9:23 AM PDT
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Photos: Swine Flu Outbreak Worldwide


Registered Nurse Judy Walker holds a dose of the swine flu vaccine nasal mist at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago on Monday, Oct. 5, 2009. Children's Memorial Hospital received 500 doses of the vaccine to inoculate people against the virus, which has been blamed for hundreds of deaths since it was first identified in April. (AP Photo/David Banks)

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If you are planning to visit a hospital patient, leave your children at home. This is the message from a number of local hospitals where administrators are concerned that visitors may be bringing the H1N1 virus with them.

Cedars Sinai Medical Center this week raised the minimum age for visitors from 12 to 18. The hospital also restricted the number of visitors permitted for patients at greatest risk from the virus. This includes patients in the obstetrics, pediatrics and neo-natal intensive care units.

A Cedars spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times that many area hospitals are considering similar restrictions. Young children are at the greatest risk of catching the H1N1 virus and infecting others before they show symptoms.

Valley Presbyterian in Van Nuys is barring children under 16 from visiting patient rooms or even being left unattended in lobbies, waiting rooms and other common area. Childrens Hospital Los Angeles is limiting patients to two visitors at a time. UCLA Medical Center plans to institute a new policy within the next week barring children under 16 from visiting pediatric, perinatal, neonatal and child life areas -- nless preauthorized by the staff.

Hospitals are telling visitors who have any flu symptoms to stay away until 24 hours after their symptoms disappear. You can expect staffs to begin screening visitors at building entrances in the days ahead. They will be posting guidelines and talking to patients and their families about these precautions.

Neither Kaiser Permanente nor UC Irvine Douglas Hospital has imposed new visitor restrictions -- but both say this could change as hospitals evaluate the spread of H1N1 in the community. Los Angeles County's three public hospitals have not restricted visitors, but officials plan to meet on Friday to review these policies.

A spokesman for the California Hospital Association says every hospital is looking at its visitation policy.

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