Health & Medicine

Area hospitals amend visitation policies to help prevent spread of flu

If you think you might have the flu, Lexington area hospitals are asking you to steer clear of their patients.

UK HealthCare added restrictions Monday for visitors. They include:

■ No visitors younger than 18.

■ No visitors with any symptoms of flulike illness.

■ Only two visitors in a patient's room at one time.

■ Masks or other protective clothing might be issued for use while visiting.

■ Additional restrictions might be in place in units such as women's and children's units, critical care and cancer care units.

■ Exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

The restrictions are in place at the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, Kentucky Children's Hospital and UK Good Samaritan Hospital.

Dr. Bernard Boulanger, chief medical officer for UK HealthCare, said the measures were "in response to the increasing number of flu cases in Kentucky."

Other hospitals are taking similar precautions.

At the St. Joseph system of hospitals, which in Lexington include St. Joseph on Harrodsburg Road and St. Joseph East on Richmond Road, people who aren't feeling well are being asked not to visit patients. Spokesman Barbara Mackovic said signs would be posted this week.

At St. Joseph Women's Hospital, visitors are limited to parents only in the neonatal intensive care unit. Visitation for new mothers and babies is limited to family members only.

In addition, Mackovic said, any employee who did not receive a flu shot will be wearing a mask during patient care.

Central Baptist Hospital has mandated flu shots for its employees, spokesman Ruth Ann Childers said. The hospital will post signs urging potentially sick visitors not to come in contact with patients, particularly new mothers and babies.

"We're hoping people will wash their hands and not visit babies if they have a cold or cough," Childers said.

Kevin Hall, a spokesman for the Fayette County Health Department, said the number of documented flu cases in the county jumped from 21 late last week to 40 as of late Monday afternoon.

Some retail locations might not have the vaccine, but some are reordering. The pharmacy at Kroger on Bryan Station Road was out of flu vaccine Monday afternoon but expected a new shipment Tuesday.

Hall said he had heard of spot shortages of the vaccine, but the health department was "not in danger of running out."

Flu vaccine is ordered well in advance, Hall said, because most flu shots are given earlier in the flu season: For example, the health department administered 1,700 shots on its Free Flu Friday in October. By January, flu shot demand has slowed during a typical season, and supplies are leaner than during the autumn.

Hall urged patients to get their flu shots early in the next flu season because newer vaccines provide protection for months longer.

"There's no reason to wait," he said.