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H1N1 has local hospitals cracking down on visitors

News 12 at 11 o'clock, October 7, 2009

AUGUSTA, Ga.---The H1N1 vaccines are starting to make their way into our area but local hospitals still aren't taking any chances. They're making some changes to keep you and their patients safe.

Local hospitals are getting serious about what visitors they let in, especially in the nursery wings.

The H1N1 outbreak has some hospitals scrambling to change their visitors policy-- not allowing children, and in some cases not allowing anyone except immediate family. It's all about preventing the spread of viruses and keeping everyone healthy.

Naomi Williams is visiting her 16-week-old son, Noah in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Having a sick baby has taught Naomi why it's so important to keep track of who's coming and going.

"I think it's wonderful. I'm thankful for the extreme steps cause that's protecting not just my baby but the other seven babies that are in our room," says Naomi.

University Hospital, has new guidelines for visitors: only immediate family, no children under 12 and no one who's sick.

"It's to safeguard everybody. You don't want to take something home to your siblings and you don't want to bring something in to the newborn that might be susceptible," says Rebecca Walker, the Infection Prevention Coordinator with University Hospital.

Doctors say it takes a few days for you to notice the symptoms so they've got signs up around the hospital and they've got hand sanitizer to keep everyone healthy.

But Naomi knows, sometimes it can be tough to follow the rules.

"I understand you want to be able to come and see the brand new baby and the excitement and experience that joy but at the same time it's not all about them. It's a big picture, it's about all of us," says Naomi.

And pregnant women are at high risk too. The CDC reports 28 women in the U.S. have died from H1N1. Another 100 or so have been hospitalized.

"It makes you, not so much more susceptible to influenza, but should you actually get influenza it makes you at more of a risk for severe disease," explains Walker.

And practice makes perfect, especially since we're still months away from the peak of the seasonal flu.

"At some point in times not seeing them, as hard as it may be, is a means of protecting them," adds Naomi.

Just about all of the local hospitals have adopted new policies, either keeping visitors to only family and/or restricting kids. For University it's 12 and under. MCGHealth, who made the change last month, restricts children 18 and under. Doctors Hospital is keeping those 16 and under away.

Doctors say it's so important for pregnant women to get vaccinated for both the H1N1 and seasonal flu. The results haven't come back yet on the H1N1 trials, so some women are wary, but doctors believe there are no additional risks.


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