To help prevent spreading the flu virus during its winter peak, hospitals in Culpeper and Fauquier counties are asking local residents age 12 and under not to visit unless they’re seeking medical treatment.
Hospitals in Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania County and Stafford County haven't taken that measure, but "always recommend that anyone experiencing the signs and symptoms of flu refrain from visiting," said Emily Thurston, public relations manager with Mary Washington Healthcare, which owns Mary Washington Hospital and Stafford Hospital.
Also, there are masks and hand-sanitizer stations throughout the facilities and information that alerts people about the flu, said Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center Marketing Director Jael Cooper.
Novant Health UVA Health System, which operates Culpeper Medical Center, is seeking to keep visitors 12 and under out of its acute-care facilities until further notice, according to a Novant statement.
Unless those children need care, Fauquier Health is recommending children under 13, pregnant women and people with chronic lung diseases refrain from visiting the hospital.
Both hospitals said they acted due to the increased incidence of flu in the region. Peak flu season generally lasts through April 1.
Novant’s restrictions also apply to Haymarket Medical Center and Prince William Medical Center.
“The flu virus can be extremely dangerous to people who have compromised immune systems, cancer, kidney disease and other chronic conditions,” said Dr. Jon D’Souza, chief medical officer at Culpeper Medical Center. “Visitor restrictions protect our patients and reduce the likelihood that children who are visiting might encounter the flu.”
Mary Washington Healthcare and Spotsylvania Regional have experienced a typical number of flu cases, officials reported. If that changes, patient visitors are limited to spouses, significant others, parents or direct caregivers, Thurston said.
If the flu level reaches high numbers in the Fredericksburg region, MWH recommends not having visitors under age 18. Children may be allowed in special circumstances, she added.
People seeking treatment at Culpeper hospitals are not subject to the restrictions, Novant said. But people 13 and older who are experiencing a runny nose, sore throat, fever or cough are encouraged not to visit patients being treated at Novant facilities.
All visitors to these facilities should properly disinfect their hands by washing with soap and water or using sanitizing gel when entering and leaving the facilities in order to prevent the spread of the flu virus, Novant said.
It is not too late to get a flu vaccination, according to Fauquier Health officials.
In special circumstances, such as visiting a dying family member, children may be allowed access to hospital areas if parents make arrangements with the patient’s nurse, Novant said.
Free Lance–Star Reporter Cathy Dyson contributed to this report.