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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Resurgence of H1N1 pandemic flu strain prompts hospitals to restrict visitors

The return of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic strain this flu season has prompted many hospitals to tighten visitor restrictions. Though it is covered in the current vaccine, H1N1 was noted for causing serious flu infections in young, healthy people during the 2009 pandemic.

“It’s definitely worse than it was last year, which was a very mild season,” says Joan Ivaska, MPH, senior director of infection prevention for Banner Health in Phoenix, AZ. “But we have seen a fair number of hospitalizations this year in several of our facilities. We have hospitals in seven states and we have applied the same restrictions in all of them because they all are showing a high level of influenza activity.”

The hospital system has issued visitor restriction policies that include the following:

•Do not visit the hospital if you have a fever, cough, vomiting or diarrhea

• Please, no visitors under the age of 13.

•Siblings who do not have cold and flu symptoms may visit a new baby on the Obstetrics Unit. Your child may be screened for illness by staff before being allowed to visit.

•Children 12 and under must be supervised by an adult at all times in public waiting areas and cafeterias.

•Please wash or sanitize your hands frequently while at the hospital

“Children can shed virus longer than adults and we just want to make sure we providing the safest environment possible for our patients and staff,” Ivaska says.

All Banner Health employees, employed physicians, volunteers and students received a flu vaccination by Dec. 1 of last year. Those who were unable to receive the vaccination due to medical or religious reasons are required to wear a mask in care areas during the flu season.