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Five tips to help stop the spread of H1N1

To protect patients, visitors and staff from H1N1 and seasonal flu this season, Colorado hospitals are taking the lead to reduce the spread of infections and ensure a safe environment for everyone.

Many of the state's hospitals are establishing temporary visitor restrictions during the flu season. Although these changes may create a brief hardship for patients and visitors, the Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) encourages everyone to support and recognize that these measures are aimed at limiting exposure to flu viruses and preventing the spread of H1N1 and seasonal flu throughout communities across the state.

To avoid potential inconvenience, families and friends are advised to call the hospital or check its website before visiting as policies may continue to change as H1N1 and seasonal flu escalate during the fall and winter seasons. Currently, all Colorado hospitals are restricting individuals with flu-like symptoms from visiting their facilities and many are not allowing anyone under the ages of 12 or 18, including siblings, to visit.

 Leaving children unattended in hospital waiting areas is not advised. Families are encouraged to arrange for child care before visiting the hospital.

Other preventive measures hospitals have adopted include limiting the number of visitors in patient rooms and encouraging everyone to wash hands or use alcohol sanitizer upon entering and leaving patient rooms, restrooms and after coughing or sneezing. Hand sanitizer is readily available at the hospitals.

In addition to visitor restrictions, Colorado hospitals are vaccinating their employees to protect them against H1N1 and the seasonal flu virus, and sharing tips with staff, patients and visitors on how to reduce exposure to the flu.
Here are some very basic steps and sound precautions that will go a long way in helping to protect against the spread of H1N1 and the seasonal flu:

• Cover your cough or sneeze with the bend of your arm or a tissue. If you use your hands, wash them or use a hand sanitizer immediately.

• Continue to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, especially after being in public places.

• If you have a fever, cough, sore threat or other similar symptoms, stay home. Avoid going out in public until your symptoms have disappeared and your temperature is back to normal for at least one day.

• Contact your physician or health care provider if you have questions and concerns regarding your illness.
• Eat healthy, drink plenty of fluids and get enough rest.

• As vaccines become available in your area, please make it a priority to vaccinate your children and others who may be at a greater risk for H1N1 and seasonal flu.

Continue to listen and learn more about how you can protect yourself and your loved ones. Colorado hospitals will update their policies as more information becomes available with the ultimate goal of ensuring a safe environment for their patients, visitors and staff. Together we can protect our communities.

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Steven Summer

Steven J. Summer is president and CEO of the Colorado Hospital Association (CHA). Summer served as a member of Colorado's Blue Ribbon Commission on Healthcare Reform and serves on the board of the Center for Improving Value in Health Care (CIVHC) and the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO).

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