SARATOGA SPRINGS — On Dec. 28 Saratoga Hospital announced that visitation guidelines are in effect as of Dec. 31, at several regional hospitals to further protect patients from influenza and other infectious diseases. New York State Department of Health establishes the guidelines after determining that the flu is now prevalent in certain communities.
A maximum of two visitors will be allowed in a patient’s room under these guidelines. In addition, visitors with rash, respiratory symptoms or fever, sore throat, cough and shortness of breath are not allowed to visit patients and children 12 and under are also now not allowed to visit patients. These visitor restrictions are implemented every year.
“So far to date we’ve seen over 30 hospitalized patients here; it was certainly less than we saw last year for the same time frame. Most patients are over 65,” said Erin Beck, Senior Infection Prevention Specialist at Saratoga Hospital. She adds that the increase in flu patients typically occurs at the end of December.
Other hospitals implementing the restrictions include Albany Med, Columbia Memorial Hospital and Saratoga Hospital. Hospitals that had already implemented the restrictions include St. Peter’s Health Partners acute care hospitals including Albany Memorial Hospital, Samaritan Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy, St. Peter’s Hospital, and Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital.
The restrictions are temporary and are intended to help limit the transmission of the virus and protect the health and safety of patients and the professionals who provide their care during the outbreak. The restrictions tend to last two to three months according to Dr. J. Robert Hayes, Medical Director of the Hospitalist Program at Saratoga Hospital.
“The flu either shifts or drifts and if it shifts it can cause severe pandemics but that’s very rare; this year it appears to have just shifted,” Hayes said.
“It’s probably a little bit early to say what the impact of the flu will be on the community. It’s been wide-spread for probably about a month now and I think the early indications so far are that it’s not as severe as it was last year. My gut reaction is that this particular type of Influenza A has not made a traumatic shift,” Hayes added.
The hospitals also are urging all visitors to use hand-washing stations before entering and upon leaving a patient’s room. Hand sanitizers are available at many hospital entrances and at many other locations throughout these hospitals, including the doorways of many patient rooms. Some hospitals have special care units or physical layouts which may have additional visitation restrictions or modifications.
Hospital officials advised that it is still important to get the flu vaccine, as it offers protection against other circulating strains and will reduce the likelihood of severe illness.