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Exeter Hospital restricts access to fight spread of flu

EXETER - Exeter Hospital is voluntarily restricting inpatient, medical and radiation oncology visitor access in response to a flu outbreak in New Hampshire and across the nation.

The temporary restriction was put in place Friday as a safety precaution for patients, staff and visitors, the hospital said.

During the voluntary restriction, inpatients and patients within the medical or radiation oncology departments will be allowed only two visitors at a time, and children younger than 14 will be barred from visiting. Exceptions will be made for siblings visiting in the Family Center; they must see the Family Center receptionist for prescreening.

The hospital is also asking people not to visit if they have a fever, sore throat or cough.

"Visitors and the general public have been understanding of the precautionary visitation policy we have implemented. Most visitors and individuals in the community seem to be well aware of the increase in flu cases throughout the country and understand that the hospital has instituted these precautionary policies to help protect the safety and health of our patients," hospital spokesman Ryan Lawrence said.

Taking steps to restrict access is a common precaution hospitals take to decrease the risk of transmission within the facility of a highly contagious disease such as influenza or norovirus, Lawrence said.

Elliot Hospital in Manchester has requested, but not required, that patients have two or fewer visitors, said hospital spokeswoman Susanna Whitcher. The hospital is also making masks and hand sanitizer available.

"If (visitors) have symptoms of the flu, we're asking them to postpone their visit," she said.

Exeter Hospital's decision was made as the hospital monitored the spread of the flu.

"We were starting to see an increase in the number of patients presenting to our emergency department with influenza-like symptoms as well as news reports of surges of patients going to hospitals in Massachusetts and other neighboring states," Lawrence said.

The hospital was especially busy on Monday with about a third of patients seen so far having influenza-like illness, Lawrence said.

The hospital will continue to monitor the flu outbreak over the next several weeks, but Lawrence said it's too soon to know how long the restriction will be in effect.

Any patients or visitors with questions are urged to call the hospital at 580-6668.

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