With cold and flu season near, hospitals taking steps to fight potential infections

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Restrictions and precautions are now in effect for cold and flu season at Rhode Island and Hasbro Children’s Hospitals in order to lower patients’ risk of contracting respiratory illnesses.

Dr. Leonard Mermel, the hospitals’ medical director for epidemiology and infection control, said the program is pretty robust.

The four policies starting Oct. 1 are:

  • Newly arrived patients who show symptoms of respiratory infection will be screened with a nasal swab.
  • Visitors under 12 years old will not be allowed into Hasbro Children’s Hospital inpatient units.
  • All visitors will be verbally screened for signs of respiratory illness.
  • Hospital staff will be required to be vaccinated against the flu or wear face masks.

“If someone is here for major surgery or might have had a heart attack or stroke, we don’t want to add on top of that a respiratory virus infection, which can be very serious in patients with other comorbidities,” where a patient may already have two or more chronic diseases or conditions, Dr. Mermel said.

Dr. Mermel says the program has actually been expanded in recent years.

“What we have found is, in those units where we screened visitors the last respiratory virus season – compared to the inpatient units that we did not screen – we had a two- to three-fold reduction in hospital-acquired respiratory viral infections,” he explained.

Every hospital entrance is also equipped with hand sanitizer, surgical masks, and facial tissues.

The preventive measures will be in effect through April.

Learn More: Flu Resource Guide »

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