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Tanner Reintroduces Visitor Policy to Protect Patients, Community From Flu


12.28.2018

With flu activity in Georgia and Alabama reaching widespread levels, Tanner Health System has put back in place its visitor policy to help curtail the spread of the virus in the region while also protecting its patients.

Flue seasonThe health system is asking for anyone who is not an immediate family member or significant other of a patient — as well as anyone who is 13 or younger or who has flu-like symptoms — to refrain from visiting patients at Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton, Tanner Medical Center/Villa Rica, Higgins General Hospital in Bremen, Tanner Medical Center/East Alabama in Wedowee and the inpatient behavioral health facility at Willowbrooke at Tanner in Villa Rica.

The measures, originally introduced during the 2017-2018 flu season, are intended to protect patients from exposure to visitors who might have flu and prevent visitors from transporting the flu virus from the hospital into the community.

The 2018-2019 flu season is shaping up to be one of the most active in the region in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alabama and Georgia are among a handful of states — including California, Delaware, Massachusetts, New York and the territory of Guam — reporting widespread flu activity. Flu activity is at local levels in Tennessee and South Carolina, and regional in Florida, Mississippi and North Carolina. Nationally, the CDC is reporting that flu activity is now elevated, with increasing numbers of people seeking treatment of influenza-like illness for the past four consecutive weeks.

The decision to impose the visitor policy was made in consultation with organizational leadership and medical staff, including the health system’s infectious disease specialists and infection prevention team. Other hospitals throughout Georgia and Alabama have also implemented visitor restriction policies.

“Flu-like symptoms often include a cough; extreme exhaustion and fatigue; headaches; fever; nasal and respiratory congestion; and muscle aches and pains,” said Laura Larson, MD, a board-certified infectious disease specialist with Infectious Diseases of West Georgia and medical director of infection prevention for Tanner. “Symptoms can be mild to severe. Some people may also experience vomiting and diarrhea and a sore throat.”

The CDC reports that almost 900 people nationwide have been hospitalized for influenza since Oct. 1, with most of those hospitalizations occurring among children younger than 5 years old. Adults age 65 and older make up the second highest population being hospitalized for influenza-associated reasons.

Tanner already has protocols in place to limit the spread of viruses and bacteria throughout its facilities. Its environmental services team works constantly to keep facilities and equipment clean and sanitized, hand sanitizer stations are found throughout the facilities and every Tanner employee is required to receive an annual flu shot.

“These additional protocols are another step in protecting our patients and our community,” said Dr. Larson. “We realize it’s extraordinary to ask people not to visit their friends and neighbors, and we know how important visits are for patients. This flu season is challenging us to look for new ways to stem the spread, and this an additional measure that can help keep more people healthy.”

Additional safeguards that members of the community can take include getting a seasonal flu shot, frequently washing their hands with soap and water, and staying home if they’re sick.

More information on the health system’s visitor policies is available online at www.tanner.org/visitorrestrictions. More information about flu prevention is available at www.tanner.org/flu.

For Tanner Urgent Care location information and wait times, visit www.TannerUrgentCare.org or download the Tanner Urgent Care app from the Apple App Store or Google Play.



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