Hospitals restricting visitors to protect patients against flu

BY Raven Santana, Correspondent |

With flu season picking up in New Jersey, hospitals like Bayonne Medical Center are now implementing visitor restrictions to prevent spreading the infection.

“Anyone who comes in with respiratory symptoms, we ask them to mask, or we ask them to go home depending on if they really want to come see their family members. Anybody under the age of 12 is completely restricted from coming into the hospital,” said Allison Antonik, infection control manager at Bayonne Medical Center. “We just began to hit high level, so I do anticipate this happening for a few more weeks. We are seeing a lot of people coming in with respiratory complaints and fevers.”

If you decide to head to the emergency room, Antonik says the best thing you can do is head to the front desk first and let them know you have flu symptoms.

“You have a fever, you have a cough, just let them know right away. This way they can be on alert, and know to keep you safe, as well as keep the patients that you’re going to come near in the emergency room safe,” said Antonik.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan says it’s important to remember that the hospital shouldn’t always be your first stop if you think you have flu symptoms.

“Calling ahead, letting your health care provider know that you know might have a potentially communicable disease is helpful for them so that they can triage you accordingly so that you don’t put other people at risk who might also be at the health care facility,” Tan said.

Tan says this year, we’re seeing more cases of the H1N1 virus than a more dangerous strain of the flu that hit the state hard last year.

“H3N2 tends to be associated with more severe illnesses, more severe presentations of flu illness, more hospitalizations. H1N1, we are concerned about anybody potentially getting complications from any type of flu infection, but certainly H3N2 is more associated with more severe presentation,” Tan said.

Antonik says if you do have the flu or symptoms of it, you should avoid public places.

“Church, school, hospitals, even going to the grocery store you can actually make people sick. So if you have those symptoms you really should be staying home,” Antonik said.

Antonik says the best way to protect yourself from the flu is by receiving a flu shot and by washing your hands with soap and water.