Effective Dec. 28, 2015: Visitor restrictions for children 11 and younger in N.C. Children’s Hospital

Beginning Monday, Dec. 28, 2015, visitor restrictions for children under 12 (age 11 years old and younger) will be implemented in the N.C. Children’s Hospital. These restrictions are the result of a rapid increase of circulating respiratory viruses (e.g., rhinovirus, RSV, parainfluenza and other colds) that have put both our patients and healthcare providers at risk.

Similar restrictions are already in place in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit (BMTU), Newborn Critical Care Center (NCCC), and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at UNC Hospitals.

These restrictions mean that children 11 years old and younger are not permitted in inpatient units, including surgical units, and their waiting areas at the Children’s Hospital unless there are extreme circumstances. Any exception to these restrictions must be made by Hospital Epidemiology.

To facilitate a smooth transition of these restrictions and to accommodate the families who have to travel and arrange for child care before visiting the Children’s Hospital, please use the next 12 days to advertise the restrictions to affected staff and families. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why are children under 12 years old unable to come to the hospital during certain times of the year?
    Children 11 years old and younger cannot visit when visitor restrictions are in place because children get sick more often than adults and when children get sick their bodies do not fight off infection as fast as adults. Children with respiratory viruses can spread their illness to others for up to two days before they have any symptoms of being sick. Almost half of children with viral respiratory infections do not have any symptoms, but can still spread the viruses.

    We understand that visitor restrictions present challenges for families and can be difficult for children who have a loved one in the hospital. However, it is important for the safety of all UNC Hospitals pediatric patients that children 11 years old or younger not visit inpatient units, including surgical units, and their waiting rooms in the Children’s Hospital in person beginning Monday, Dec. 28. Encourage children who wish to visit to write letters instead, or help them stay connected through Skype or FaceTime.
  • What about extreme circumstances?
    If there are extreme circumstances during the visitation restriction time period and a patient requires a child 11 years old and younger to visit, any exception must be made by Hospital Epidemiology. During the day, UNC Hospitals employees should call 984-974-7500 for an exception and after hours, please page the on-call infection preventionist at 123-7427.
  • How do respiratory viruses spread?
    Respiratory viruses are easily transmitted from person to person through droplets and small particles produced when infected people cough and sneeze. A person might also contract respiratory viruses by touching their mouth, eyes or nose after touching an object or surface with the virus on it.

    Because it is spread so easily, people with mild cases of the flu or other respiratory viruses should stay home and avoid contact with others, except to seek medical care.

    While respiratory viral testing is pending, patients should be placed on Droplet-Contact precautions. Appendix 3: Quick Glance for Respiratory Virus Panel Isolation Precautions in the Isolation Precautions Infection Control Policy highlights the isolation required and the duration of isolation for various respiratory viruses. If you have questions about which type of isolation to use with your patient, call Hospital Epidemiology at 984-974-7500.  
  • How can I reduce my risk?
    Using standard precautions, wearing a mask when working with patients who present with respiratory viruses and good hand hygiene will reduce the risk of getting a respiratory virus.

    The most effective way to avoid getting the flu is to get a flu vaccine every year. The CDC recommends that everyone six months of age or older receive a flu vaccine each year. Vaccination not only protects against infection but helps prevent the spread of the flu to individuals at highest risk of serious complications, including young children, older adults and those who have chronic health conditions or weakened immune systems. For more information about getting your flu vaccine, check out the Employee Flu Vaccine Resources website.  
  • What do we do at UNC Hospitals to protect patients during cold and flu season?
    We require that all our health care providers receive the flu vaccine each year. Hand hygiene, which is a priority at the hospitals every day of the year, is emphasized during flu season to help reduce the spread of infection.

    Additionally, we monitor local respiratory infection data and enact visitor restrictions for children 11 years old and younger when there are high numbers of circulating respiratory infections in the community. High-risk areas like the Neonatal Critical Care Unit, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, and Bone Marrow Transplant Unit began visitor restrictions on Nov. 2, 2015. All inpatient units, including surgical units, and their waiting rooms at the Children’s Hospital will begin visitor restrictions for children 11 and younger on Monday Dec. 28.    
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