By Krissy Logsdon, BSN, RN

Director of Infection Prevention and Employee Health

Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center

Due to high influenza activity within our community and surrounding areas, Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center (TLRMC) has initiated visitor restrictions effective immediately. These restrictions are part of an effort to keep our patients safe from further illness and our staff healthy so they may continue to provide top quality patient care.

Restrictions include the following:

• No visitors with flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, and sore throat). Masks, tissues, and hand sanitizer are available at the main entrance into the hospital and by the Emergency Department registration entrance.

• No visitors age 15 or under; this will be strictly enforced in the Mother Baby unit. *Please note that these restrictions include siblings of a newborn.

• No more than two visitors in a hospital patient room at one time.

• No visitors other than immediate family or other significant persons defined by the patient. Exceptions to these restrictions may be made for cases involving critically ill patients and end of life situations.

Staff at TLRMC has been educated to encourage visitors who are ill and showing signs of influenza infection (cough, sneezing, fever, chills, body aches, and general fatigue) to wear a mask and not visit patients until symptoms subside for at least 24 hours.

For convenience, “Cover your cough” stations are located at the main entrance into the hospital and at the entrance near the Emergency Department registration that provide masks, tissues, and hand sanitizer to utilize to decrease the chance of spreading or obtaining germs if you must present to the hospital. For other areas of the facility, staff will be offering the same protective equipment to help contain organisms that could cause illness. We highly recommend disinfecting hands by using soap and water, or alcohol-based rubs found throughout the facility. Keeping hands clean by using alcohol-based rubs or soap and water is the number one way to decrease transmission of disease and illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a total of 2,100 deaths nationwide with 22 of those being pediatric deaths. In addition, there have been approximately 4.6 million flu illnesses, and 39,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. related to the flu (CDC, 2019). In Kentucky, as of Dec. 14, 2019, there have been 2,436 confirmed flu cases for the current season and six deaths related to the flu; one of these was a pediatric death (KY CHFS, 2019). It is highly recommended that no visitors age 15 or under present to the hospital to visit a patient, a newborn, or a pediatric patient.

People with symptoms of flu can spread it to others who are within six feet of them. Flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets produced during coughing, sneezing, or talking. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby and cause infection; these droplets can also possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Transmission can also occur due to touching surfaces or objects that have the flu virus on them and then touching mouths and/or noses (CDC, 2018).

This proves why it is important for us to disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, and school, especially if someone is showing signs of infection as noted above. It is also extremely important for us to perform hand hygiene frequently. Using soap and water or alcohol-based rubs are effective to decrease the chance of transmitting illness to others.

In summary, please think about family, friends, children, the elderly, and others if symptoms of illness are present. Please, cover your cough or sneeze into your elbow instead of your hand. Frequently wash your hands, and disinfect frequently used surfaces, such as door knobs, desk tops, computer key boards, pens/pencils, shopping cart handles, and whatever we can see that is touched frequently.

Please, let’s work as a team to keep each other and the community as healthy as possible. Remember, if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms please do not visit patients, including newborns and pediatrics, and help us keep our patients safe from further illness.