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Banner Health implementing hospital visitor restrictions during flu season

(Banner Health photo)

PHOENIX – To protect vulnerable patients during flu season, Arizona-based Banner Health announced it is implementing visitor restrictions at all of its hospitals.

The annual restrictions will go into effect Jan. 2 and run until the end of flu season, which typically lasts through March.

“This is really for the protection of our patients in the hospital that may not be able to have an appropriate immune response, and we want to make sure that they’re not acquiring a disease while they’re in our care,” Joan Ivaska, the health network’s senior director of infection prevention, said in a video.

Under the policy, visitors with a fever, cough, vomiting or diarrhea and anybody younger than 13 years old will be restricted.

Siblings under 13 who don’t have cold or flu symptoms and are screened for illness by staff will be allowed to visit new babies.

In addition, all hospital visitors are encouraged to wash or sanitize hands frequently to prevent contracting or spreading any illness.

Last week, there was a spike in flu cases reported to the Arizona Department of Health Services. The 808 cases between Dec. 16 and 22 was more than double the number from the previous week.

For the season, 1,995 cases were reported through last week. That’s above the five-year average of 1,700 for the same time frame but well below last year’s total of 6,614 at this point.

Dr. Terry Simpson, medical expert for KTAR News 92.3 FM, said it’s a common practice for hospitals to implement visitor restrictions this time of year.

“If you have a fever or a cold or symptoms of being sick, please don’t go to a hospital and see people,” Simpson said.

“That’s just a horrible thing to do to those who can’t have the same immunity to fight against their diseases as you do.”

Banner Health owns and operates 28 acute-care hospitals, including 15 in Maricopa and Pinal counties.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.

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