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Henry Medical Center revises its visitation policy

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

The prevalence of the H1N1 virus in the metro-Atlanta area has resulted in changes to the visitation policy at Henry Medical Center (HMC).

Hospital officials are asking people, 18 and under, not to visit patients, in order to ensure the well-being of people staying at the hospital. The policy change was put into effect Friday.

HMC is the latest in a series of local medical facilities that have made changes to their visitation procedures, according to Michelle Nunnally, HMC's public relations specialist. She said the change is being instituted in order to protect patients at the hospital.

"We have patients whose health is already vulnerable," said Nunnally. "We don't want to put our patients, or visitors to the hospital, at risk for further illness during the flu season."

The hospital's announcement came on the heels of the most recent death attributed to H1N1 in Georgia. An Associated Press (AP) report from Thursday indicates that a 7-year-old girl from Dalton, Ga., died from the virus Wednesday.

"At least 14 Georgia residents have died from the H1N1 virus since April," the AP report said.

HMC released a written statement about its policy change Friday. The release indicates that H1N1 is "very similar" to the seasonal flu, and "should not be treated any differently."

"Both viruses share similar symptoms, including fever, sore throat, muscle aches, cough, runny nose, extreme fatigue, and are transmitted from person to person," the statement said. "According to the Georgia Division of Public Health, children and young adults seem to be at the highest risk for novel H1N1. And, although novel H1N1 is a new virus, the case fatality rate associated with novel H1N1 has not been higher than that caused by other seasonal influenza viruses."

The hospital is emphasizing prevention as a "key factor" in staying healthy, by reminding residents to wash and rinse their hands thoroughly, and to dry them with a "clean, dry towel."

"Use the towel to turn off the water faucet," the written statement said. "Remember to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your sleeve. Throw the tissue away immediately. Get vaccinated against the seasonal flu."

The statement includes tips for local residents, who suspect they may have the flu: "Be sure to get plenty of rest, drink plenty of caffeine-free liquids, take non-aspirin pain relievers to reduce fever, and stay home from work for 24 hours after the last sign that fever is subsiding without the use of fever-reducing medicine."

The statement added that people who develop severe illness, "should contact their primary care physician immediately."

For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/flu, or www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu.