Respiratory virus season underway

Published 11:14 am Thursday, November 30, 2017

To the Editor:

As the holiday seasons approach it is also the beginning of respiratory virus season. This includes not only viruses such as influenza A and B, but Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and the common cold, among others. These viruses in our communities can cause very serious illnesses to those who are already susceptible to infection and/or already ill, especially children. The past several weeks, increasing cases of RSV have been seen among children admitted to the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at Vidant Medical Center (VMC).

Here at VMC, we owe it to patients, families, visitors and team members to do all we can to limit the spread of infections. Vidant team members who serve any of our hospitals and clinics across our system are vaccinated for influenza each year. This helps us further prevent our team members from becoming ill with influenza, while also protecting patients, visitors and others from becoming ill and inadvertently spreading the virus. In addition, if team members report to work with an illness or become ill at work, they will be sent home or to their personal physician for evaluation.

When we detect a large number of patients entering the hospital with the respiratory viruses mentioned above, it is necessary to limit visitation in the areas where the patients are most vulnerable to infections, such as the pediatric units.

As such, beginning Monday, Dec. 4, children under the age of 12 may not visit patients at the children’s hospital at VMC.

The one exception to this temporary restriction: children under the age of 12 who are not sick and live in the same household may visit their healthy newborn sibling.

Given we typically see the smallest of infants and the sickest of children, we feel this is a necessary step to protect our youngest patients from respiratory viruses that may cause them to become seriously ill.

Family members may innocently and inadvertently carry respiratory viruses into the hospital. Therefore, we also request that you follow the precaution signs to wear gloves and gowns, where indicated, to prevent the spread of these viruses to others throughout the hospital.

While you might not exhibit any symptoms, you never know if you could have been exposed to one of these viruses. These viruses, especially RSV, are easily spread by physical contact. Touching, kissing and even shaking hands with an infected person can spread this virus. The viruses also spread through the air by sneezing and coughing and can live for hours on countertops, bed rails and even on used tissue. As you might guess, infections like RSV spread rapidly in crowded households, daycare centers, schools, churches and hospitals.

We also recommend that you be proactive at home and out in the community to prevent infections. In addition to receiving the influenza vaccine yourself, some tips for preventing the spread of viruses include washing your hands frequently; keeping your children home from school when they are sick; and not sharing cups or utensils. Another way to prevent the spread of illnesses is to keep your hands away from your face. Just rubbing your eye and touching a child can spread your virus to that child.

Thank you for your support of our efforts to protect the children and families who depend on us for care.

Dr. Jason Higginson
Pediatrician in Chief
James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital