Hospitals restrict visitors to curb spread of respiratory and flu-like illness

Parents-only policy affects pediatric areas of Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface hospitals

Parents-only policy affects pediatric areas of Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface hospitals

Winnipeg Health Region
Published Friday, January 11, 2013

Visitors to children's wards at Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface Hospital are being restricted to parents only in a bid to reduce the risk of exposing pediatric patients to respiratory infections, it was announced today.

The move comes after a surge in the number of cases of Respiratory Synctitial Virus (RSV) and other flu-like illnesses in various hospital wards in the last month.

The restriction will apply to those visiting the Health Sciences Centre's Children's Hospital, including the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), Neonatal and Intermediate Intensive Care Units (NICU, IMCN, MS3) and St. Boniface Hospital's NICU. The same restriction is being put in place for both hospitals' labour, delivery and post-partum units.

"We believe we are going to continue to see an increase in these types of cases, which are already resulting in heavy patient volumes and extremely high occupancy rates at both sites," Dr. Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg, Medical Director of the Winnipeg Health Region's Child Health Program said. "It is important we take whatever steps possible to reduce further spread of the illness."

The Intermediate Nursery at Health Sciences Centre currently is also experiencing a respiratory outbreak with one confirmed case of influenza A. In order to reduce the risk of other infants being exposed to that virus, the Health Sciences Centre is closing that ward to further admissions and opened a temporary 14-bed unit yesterday in another section of the hospital.

"The children who are there have already been exposed and so will remain in the nursery until they are discharged," Dr. Rockman-Greenberg explained, adding all the babies are stable. "Any new admissions will be admitted to the new ward. It's important we put these measures in place so that those who do need to be here know they can come and continue to get the expert care they need in a safe environment."

Five pediatric patients are also currently in isolation in Children's after potentially being exposed to chicken pox from a visitor who had not yet been diagnosed. Infection Prevent & Control practices mandate that these children, who - while suffering from other illnesses and conditions - have not developed any sign of infection, remain separate from other patients for approximately two weeks.

The Region has informed Northwestern Ontario of the situation and is encouraging them to send babies who need extra care to facilities in Eastern Ontario unless that would pose a serious risk to the patient.

Arlene Wilgosh, President & CEO of the Winnipeg Health Region, praised the health care professionals who have been handling the situation. "Our doctors, nurses, other health-care professionals and support staff have been working non-stop to manage this situation while continuing to provide the best care to their patients. I know their ongoing efforts and commitment are appreciated, especially by the parents and families of the affected children."

Members of the public, especially parents of young children, are being asked to do their part to reduce further spread of the disease by:

  • Covering their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze or cough or sneeze into their upper sleeve; not their hands.
  • Frequently washing their hands and keeping their hands away from their face.
  • Keeping infants and small children away from public places to reduce risk of exposure to viral illnesses when possible.
  • Getting their flu shot, currently available at the offices of family physicians, at QuickCare clinics and ACCESS Centres.

About children's respiratory infections across the Winnipeg Health Region

Since December 2012, HSC and St. Boniface Hospital have seen a significant number of respiratory infections and influenza (flu) in young children and babies.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection is the leading cause of bronchiolitis in children under two years of age. In babies less than 12 months old, RSV can be very serious. It is contagious and can be spread easily.

To help prevent RSV, flu and other respiratory infection, monitor cold-like symptoms carefully. Contact your doctor if your baby or child:

  • Has a hard time breathing with wheezing
  • Has a frequent choking cough
  • Is fatigued and not playful
  • Is not feeding well and has fewer than 3 wet diapers per day
  • Looks off-colour (pale, dusky)

The best ways to prevent the spread of infection include good hygiene and reduced exposure to public settings and cigarette smoke.

  • Wash your hands before and after you have contact with your baby or child
  • Ensure your children wash their hands after blowing their nose, before and after eating and after going to the bathroom
  • Cover your cough and sneeze into your sleeve.
  • Keep household surfaces, toys and other items around children clean and away from people who have cold symptoms or fever -- viruses can live on surfaces for several hours.
  • Try to keep your children away from crowds (malls, daycare, large family gatherings, etc.) to reduce exposure. Do not give them toys or objects that may have been used by a person who is sick.
  • Avoid visiting health care facilities, hospitals and emergency departments unless you are specifically going for care.

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