SARANAC LAKE - The Adirondack Medical Center last week announced that it will limit inpatient visitors to healthy adults at least 18 years of age or older.
According to AMC spokesman Joe Riccio, hospital officials are taking steps to stop the spread of respiratory illness at its inpatient facilities. As a result, children 17-years-old and younger are being asked to refrain from visiting patients.
Riccio said the 17-and-under age group tend to travel where respiratory illness is most common.
"Especially students in school," he said. "The younger groups, like little kids who touch a lot of things and put things in their mouth; that was the main reason why we made the decision. Obviously, the seasonal flu and H1N1 are getting a lot of attention this year."
Rather than visit patients in person, AMC is encouraging sick individuals and youngsters to send cards and make phone calls to their loved ones.
Gift cards can be sent electronically via AMC's website by logging onto www.amcCares.org and click "sending a greeting card" button.
Riccio notes that the hospital understands how important a visit from a relative or friend is during the recovery process. In certain instances, hospital employees may make exceptions.
"For example, if a couple has a new baby and they want their children to see their new brother or sister, we're going look at the situation on a case-by-case basis," Riccio said.
The preventive measure went into effect on September 17 and will remain in effect until further notice. Anyone who feels ill is asked to stay away from the hospital; specifically inpatient areas.
"We understand and appreciate the public's patience at this time," Riccio said. "People come to the hospital to get better and we want to encourage that type of environment."
Individuals with any of the following symptoms should avoid visiting patients: fever, active cough, sore throat, runny nose, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. Visitors should also use the Cal Stat alcohol hand rub to clean their hands as they enter and leave patient's room.
And as far as preparing for novel H1N1 influenza or swine flue, AMC is taking steps similar to those taken by most area institutions.
"We're actively approaching the situation," Riccio said. "We're treating it as not if, but when."
"We're educating staff about seasonal flu vaccines as well as H1N1," he said. "We're looking at potential scenarios if a lot of people come to the emergency room, how are we going to handle things like that? It's really a massive undertaking, but certainly the preparation that's under way I think will help us in the long run and we'll be able to proactively deal with the situation."
Most area schools and colleges have action and prevention plans in place for the inevitable arrival of swine flu in the Tri-Lakes. And for seasonal flu, officials from the Franklin and Essex County Public Health Departments have scheduled vaccination clinics for September and October.
H1N1 vaccines are expected to be available by early next month.