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No young visitors

Temporary H1N1 policy bars youth under 16 from visiting Harrington

October 26, 2009
SOUTHBRIDGE — Starting today, people under age 16 will not be allowed to visit Harrington Hospital as part of the hospital's effort to minimize the spread of swine (H1N1) flu.

According to Infection Control Coordinator Sue Valentine, the policy is precautionary and temporary, lasting "just until the end of flu season." So far, she said, the facility has had a few H1N1 cases come into the emergency room who were sent home to recuperate, but hasn't yet had anyone serious enough to be admitted.

"We've been putting a lot of things in place to gear up for this year's flu season," she said, "so we can protect patients and our employees from being exposed to the flu."

In the building, visitors have probably already seen signs and pamphlets encouraging handwashing, mask-wearing under some circumstances, staying home when sick, preparation at home, and how to identify flu symptoms (which are the same for both swine and seasonal flu). The new policy simply expands that by "limiting both children and healthy people from coming to see patients" while still giving them an opportunity "to offer their loved ones support," Valentine said. Healthy adult visitors will be limited to two at a time, and there will be no restrictions on children who actually need medical care.

"We're hoping this will be for a very short time, until we get through the worst of it," she said, noting that there will be some flexibility for children to visit "on a case by case basis."

See Wednesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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