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Swine Flu limits hospital visitations

Posted Oct 20 2009 6:31pm

As the H1N1 virus spreads throughout the nation and the globe we are seeing more and more efforts to find ways to stem the spread of the virus.  With vaccine production seemingly hopelessly behind, it is more than  likely that most Americans will be exposed, and infected, before any vaccine is widely available.  It would seem that the only logical alternative is for anyone having flu symptoms, to seek medical attention early on and for physicians to use Tamiflu and other anti-viral medicines as necessary earlier, rather than later in an effort to limit the duration of infectious potential for those individuals who are infected.  Certainly, vaccination should still be undertaken when and where vaccine is available, particularly among pregnant women and others at very high risk.  As with other pandemics, our abilities to react are limited by the fact that the virus is a new infection and therefore the young who have had less time to build a robust immune system due to decades of exposure to various viruses are most at risk.  Hospitals are increasingly trying to limit exposure as in our current health system, only those most ill are retained in acute care hospitals for any length of time.  Some hospital staff are concerned that hospitals are not doing enough to isolate patients with H1N1.  The best advice remains: wash your hands, over and over; cover when you cough; use N95 rated respirator masks if working around individuals infected or suspected of being infected; avoid within reason anyone you know to be infected; stay home and isolate yourself if you are infected until the infection passes but seek early treatment so as to lessen symptoms and disease duration.  Lastly, get vaccinated (even though there are many who remain anti-vaccine) when you have access to the vaccine . . .

Visiting a loved one in the hospital? Better check on new flu limits first. Hospitals around the country are turning away visiting children and tightening restrictions on adults, too, in hopes of limiting spread of swine flu in the hallways — although there’s little science the limits work.  This is a confusing time as hospitals struggle to balance the recuperative effects of having loved ones visit with the fear that they’ll carry in swine flu to people already weakened from something else. Since policies are made mostly on a hospital-by-hospital basis, this is leading to huge variation, even in the same town.

The problem: There’s been little study of whether curbing visitors, or screening them for symptoms, keeps flu from sneaking into other parts of the hospital. Visitors aren’t the only risk. Health care workers might wear masks while caring for a flu patient, but they can catch the virus at home and bring it back to work. One major difficulty in fighting flu is that people can spread it up to 24 hours before their own symptoms appear. Consequently, neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the American Hospital Association have set guidelines on the issue.  Why so many child bans? Because this new flu, what scientists call the 2009 H1N1 strain, spreads so easily among children.

Hospitals restricting visitors to stop swine flu –

Flu Story: A Pregnant Woman’s Ordeal –

Calif nurses may strike over swine flu preparation –


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