Health care groups limit visitors due to flu outbreaks

Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg and Geisinger Health System in Danville and its satellite office have temporarily limited their visitation procedures to prevent the spread of influenza.

At Evangelical, children ages 12 and under are restricted from visiting inpatient floors.

Geisinger is restricting visitors under the age of 12 from hospital inpatient floors. The restriction is effective system-wide and includes Geisinger Medical Center in Danville and its Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community Hospital campus, Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre and Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre campus, Geisinger-Community Medical Center in Scranton and Geisinger-Bloomsburg Hospital.

While Evangelical has seen some influenza-like illnesses, the number of cases has not caused alarm among infection control officers who have been monitoring the situation. This visitation restriction is strictly precautionary as the trends of influenza are unpredictable.

“We feel that this temporary restriction is the right thing to do to protect our patients and staff,” said Dr. John L. Kryston, medical director of infection control at Evangelical. “Our employees have done everything possible to prevent an outbreak, with 97 percent of the workforce receiving flu shots and the other 3 percent wearing masks whenever in the hospital. We take these types of steps as a proactive way to avoid ever seeing an outbreak.”

At Geisinger, the restrictions will remain in place until the threat of flu has passed or returned to normal seasonal levels.

“Some people have the misconception that the flu is not as bad as many make it out be,” said Dr. Lisa Esolen, medical director, infection control, Geisinger Health System. “But, in fact, the flu is a very dangerous and potentially fatal disease, which is why visitation restrictions are necessary at this time.

“We believe making these temporary changes in visitation is in the best interest of our patients’ safety and well-being during this heavy flu season,” Esolen said.

Both health care organizations ask that people who are ill with fever, runny nose, cough, sore throat or body aches refrain from visiting hospitals until they are well.

Individuals who are feeling sick should see their primary care physician and avoid going to hospitals unless absolutely necessary. Staying home from work and avoiding high-traffic public areas when exhibiting signs of sickness limits the spread of influenza and other illnesses.