Local Hospitals: Kids Are Welcome

Several hospitals around the country have banned young visitors to limit the spread of the H1N1 flu virus.  But many facilities in San Diego County say the move is not necessary. 

Rady's Children's Hospital says in most cases, it's advising patients that visiting is only for parents but stopped short of calling it an outright ban.

Palomar Hospital and other facilities in the Palomar Pomerado Health System are writing letters to patients suggesting that patients limit the number of visitors to help prevent the further spread of swine flu.  "We're asking patients to talk to their family and friends and just have a couple people visit so we decrease the number of people who are potentially exposed," said Jeff Clingan, Director of Emergency and Disaster Planning.  But Clingan stressed that the benefits of visitors to the patient currently outweigh the concerns about the swine flu.  "We think that from a customer standpoint and for a patient's health and well-being, having those visitors there is important," he said.  Clingan said the health care system would continue to monitor the spread of the flu and act accordingly.  He said visitors of patients with the flu or other infectious diseases are given face masks.

Stanford Hospital, related clinics and the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital have recently banned all visitors 16 years of age or younger.  Several other hospitals around the country have made similar moves to prevent the further spread of the H1N1 flu virus.

UCSD Medical Center says it has not banned younger visitors because the level of infection does not warrant the move.  Scripps and Sharp Healthcare could not be reached for comment.

Health officials say children are at higher risk of contracting and spreading the disease.  But parents continue to struggle in getting children vaccinated. 

Wendy Garewal of Carmel Valley attempted to get her two sons, aged 2 and 5, vaccinated on Monday.  "I went to the county health clinic [in Kearny Mesa] and they said that they had run out and to check back in 10 days," said Garewal.  While concern about the swine flu is growing among parents, she's taking a calm approach.  "It's just the flu, I'm not panicked about it.  I know the mortality rate is low.  I figure, might as well prevent them from having the flu," she says.  Garewal plans to keep calling the county clinic and her pediatrician in the next two weeks to ensure her boys are vaccinated.

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