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FMCH restricts birthplace visitors

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Fort Madison Community Hospital officials said Monday they're instituting new restrictions on who can visit newborn's in the hospital's birthplace.

Due to concerns over flu season, they said those looking to visit have to be flu symptom-free for at least 72 hours before their visit.

"If you have any feelings of fever, congestion, coughing, rashes, upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting, you should not be coming here," pediatrician Dr. Gregory Gorksi said.

Staff said when it comes to the flu, newborns are at a special disadvantage.

"Because babies under 6 months can't be vaccinated for influenza and they're more likely to get a severe illness if they get the flu," infection preventionist Heather Oppenheimer-Smith said.

Dr. Gorksi said the virus hits newborns much harder than adults.

"The virus doesn't just stay as a congestion or coughing, It gets into the lungs and causes swelling and irritation in the small airways and the babies have a great deal of trouble breathing," he said.

Dr. Gorksi said babies with the flu often end up in a pediatric intensive care unit or worse.

"Often times they'll be incubated on respirators and certainly they could actually die from it," he said.

With flu season in full swing, the hospital said it's not taking any chances

"We're seeing influenza A and influenza B circulating in our community," Oppenheimer-Smith said.

Dr. Gorksi says staying healthy is simple: get vaccinated and stay clean.

"You want to be washing your hands, if you're out in public wash your hands before you eat or go to your face," he said.

Hospital staff said the state usually lifts the restrictions when flu season winds down, often sometime in the spring.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates at least 9.7 million people have had the flu this season, causing 87 thousand hospitalizations and 48 hundred deaths.

The CDC is also reporting 32 pediatric flu deaths so far this season, up from 16 at the same point last year.

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Blake Sammann

Blake Sammann is a reporter and weekend anchor at WGEM News.

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