North Valley hospital enforcing new restrictions on visitors during flu season

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Jennifer Holt works around some of the most vulnerable patients at Mercy Medical Center as the Director for the Family Birth Center.

She says protecting the babies born on this certain floor is one of the key reasons why the hospital has put new restrictions on visitors this flu season.

"We're protecting the newborns who can't be vaccinated for the flu until about six months of age, so by keeping them a little isolated from people who are potentially carrying the flu, then they're not going to get sick as often," Holt said.

Signs near the entry now let visitors know that children under the age of 13 and anyone showing any symptoms of illness will not be allowed past the lobby from November 15 through April 30.

That means young siblings and other relatives may need to wait until after babies are discharged to meet them for the first time.

"Our goal is that we celebrate our new families at home when we're not exposing them to a lot of illnesses in the hospital," Holt said.

The new rules are also designed to protect the elderly, people who just had surgery and others who may have weakened immune systems.

"And also for our staff as well because they are here and are subjected to different viruses all the time, so just to keep a healthy environment for our facility here," says Vanessa Collins, an Infection Preventionist.

Collins says the hospital has seen an increase in pediatric flu cases coming through the emergency room in recent months. So far, they've had more cases of Type B influenza than Type A.

While the symptoms are similar, Collins says that information is vital to help the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention track the effectiveness of the flu vaccine, which is still recommended for everyone six months of age or older.

"It's never too late to get the vaccine as long as it's available," Collins said. "It does take a couple of weeks for it to become effective, but you can get the flu vaccine until March and April."
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