LIMA — As the number of swine and seasonal influenza cases rises, local hospitals are making moves to limit the spread through visitors.
Just last week, the Allen County Health Department announced that two Delphos Jefferson pupils contracted the H1N1 virus, more commonly called swine flu. Those cases, and others across the state, have St. Rita’s Medical Center officials moving to restrict the flow of visitors through the hospital.
The hospital announced Monday it will restrict patient visits until further notice. No one under the age of 14 will be allowed to visit the pediatric or mother and baby floors, and the hospital asks children and those with flu-like symptoms to stay away.
“This restriction is really as much about protecting visitors as patients. That’s why we are specifically targeting young people, who are the most vulnerable to the virus,” Dr. Herb Schumm said.
St. Rita’s is the first area hospital to restrict patient visits. A spokeswoman at Lima Memorial Health System said the hospital is following the Allen County Health Department’s lead. They have not asked hospitals to apply restrictions.
“We are taking the lead of the health department and as a result we are not implementing any restrictions at his point,” said spokeswoman Megan James.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that swine flu is now considered widespread in 37 states, including Ohio. So far, 76 children have died nationwide from the virus. On Friday, the Columbus Public Health Department announced a 14-year-old boy died of the virus, bringing Ohio’s tally of swine flu deaths to five.
The two recent cases of swine flu in Allen County both recovered and have since returned to school.