CONYERS - A new policy is in effect at Rockdale Medical Center as its staff and health officials further an initiative to protect patients from the novel H1N1 flu virus, commonly known as swine flu.
RMC is discouraging visitation with patients during this flu season.
Under the new policy, children under 18 will not be allowed in the patient care areas of the hospital.
"This is for the protection of the visitor and the patients," said Vanessa Dameron, RMC emergency preparedness coordinator. "We especially want to protect the children in our community, as this virus has been affecting the younger age group the most."
The swine flu virus is easily spread, explained Dameron, through coughing, sneezing or touching contaminated surfaces.
Children will be allowed only in The Birth Place, RMC's labor and delivery division and even those visits, involving siblings of newborns, will be under special measures.
"This visitation restriction will remain in place until the flu outbreak subsides, which could be in a matter of weeks or even months," Dameron said.
Swine flu, now called a pandemic by the World Health Organization, rapidly spread throughout the country since late April with more than a million infections and an estimated 300 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
RMC has recently created a phone line where residents can hear any local swine flu updates and general prevention tips from a recorded message.
"Because some people do not have access to the Internet where much of the information about H1N1 is posted, we created a flu information line," Dameron said.
FLU LINE, as it is called, will be regularly updated as CDC or the public health department release more information. To access RMC's FLU LINE, call 770-918-FLU1.
The hospital on Milstead Avenue is also hosting an emergency preparedness forum from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29, and sponsoring an emergency preparedness fair 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 30.
Both events will be in classroom 2 in the East Tower.
RMC uses the "Shot-Hand-Home" catch phrase to help people remember flu safety.
Dameron explained it means to take the H1N1 vaccine, when it becomes available, wash hands often and stay home if sick with a fever.
Besides a fever of 100.4 or higher, flu-like symptoms include headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, sore throat, vomiting and sometimes diarrhea.
Those with symptoms should call their primary care physician or pediatrician before coming to the emergency room, unless your symptoms are severe, said Dameron.
Alena Parker can be reached at email@example.com.