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Tanner Reintroduces Visitor Policy to Protect Patients, Community From Flu

October marks the annual start to flu season, and Tanner Health System is taking steps now to keep patients — and the community — safe.

Tanner is restoring its visitor policy to curtail the spread of the virus in the region while also limiting exposure to patients.Man in hospital bed with visitor

The health system asks that 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.

These measures protect patients from exposure to visitors who might have flu and prevent visitors from transporting the flu virus from the hospital into the community.

Though still currently below the national baseline, instances of flu are already trending upward for the season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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 populations most at risk for complications from the flu that could result in hospitalizations are those aged 4 and younger, as well as those aged 65 and older. Pregnant women, people with chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes, people with cancer, and people with HIV/AIDS are also among those most likely to experience severe complications from the flu.

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. Flu season always challenges 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. The CDC encourages everyone aged 6 months and older to receive an annual flu shot. Residents can also prevent spreading the flu by frequently washing their hands with soap and water, and staying home if they’re sick.

Additional tips on avoiding the flu, keeping your family safe, flu symptoms and flu surveillance are available online at cdc.gov/flu.