Health & Fitness

Newton hospital restricts kids from visiting

Newton Medical Center is restricting visitors who are 12 or younger, effective immediately, to reduce the risk of spreading the H1N1 virus.

Wichita hospitals have not taken similar steps but are recommending that children 12 and under and people of any age who have flu symptoms not visit. Some units at individual hospitals may have further restrictions, the Sedgwick County Health Department said.

Children are more likely to get and spread the flu.

In Newton, the restriction applies to both inpatient and emergency department patient rooms.

The emergency department has seen an increase in the number of patients in the past 24 hours, and about a quarter of those with flu symptoms have tested positive for influenza, hospital officials said.

"We are seeing entire families over the past 24 hours that are testing positive," said Jo Miller, the emergency department's nurse manager.

The hospital has two patients who are thought to have H1N1.

Nationwide, the number of reported cases of influenza continues to increase, and 26 states, including Kansas, are reporting widespread influenza. That doesn't refer to the number of sick people but to how many parts of a state are reporting flu.

Seasonal influenza is unusual at this time of year, so those with flu symptoms are presumed to have the H1N1 virus. The state is no longer doing widespread testing for H1N1.

Most people with flu don't need to see a doctor. Staying at home, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking medication to reduce fever and body aches are recommended.

In Newton, those who show up at the emergency department with flu symptoms are being given a small box of tissues, a four-pack of sanitizing wipes, and a surgical mask and instructions on how to fit it, to prevent further spread of the virus.