Fall and the holiday season is also the beginning of respiratory virus season. This includes viruses such as influenza A and B, plus increasing numbers of the common cold and Respiratory Syncytial Virus.

These viruses in our communities can cause very serious illnesses to those who are susceptible to infection or who are already ill, especially children. The past several weeks, increasing cases of the common cold viruses and RSV have been seen among children admitted to the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at Vidant Medical Center.

Vidant Health is committed to patients, families, visitors and team members to do all we can to limit the spread of infections. Vidant team members who serve any of our hospitals and clinics have access to free, on-site vaccinations for influenza each year. This helps further prevent team members from becoming ill with influenza, while also protecting patients, visitors and others from becoming ill and inadvertently spreading the virus. If team members report to work with an illness or become ill at work, they will be sent home or to their personal physician for evaluation.

When we detect a large number of patients entering the hospital with the respiratory viruses mentioned above, we limit visitation in the areas where our most vulnerable patients are receiving care — the elderly and very young.

Vidant Health cares for the smallest of infants and the sickest of children.

Beginning Wednesday, the Maynard Children’s hospital will only welcome visitors who are 12 years of age and older who are not exhibiting symptoms of a cold or flu, diarrhea, vomiting or headaches.

We recognize the importance of support, especially for growing families, so one exception is that children under the age of 12 who are not sick and live in the same household may visit their healthy newborn sibling.

Family members may innocently carry respiratory viruses into the hospital. We request the use of gloves and gowns, where indicated, to prevent the spread of these viruses to others throughout the hospital. Signage will help guide you.

We recommend that everyone be proactive at home and out in the community to prevent infections. In addition to receiving the influenza vaccine yourself, some tips for preventing the spread of viruses include: washing your hands frequently; keeping your children home from school when they are sick; and not sharing cups or utensils.

Another way to prevent the spread of illnesses is to keep your hands away from your face. Just rubbing your eye and touching a child can spread your virus to that child.

Thank you for your support of our efforts to protect all who depend on us for care. We all appreciate your help as we work to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.

Dr. Jason Higginson, pediatrician in chief, James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital and professor and chairman of pediatrics, The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. Dr. Keith Ramsey, medical director for infection control, Vidant Medical Center.

Contact Bobby Burns at baburns@reflector.com and 329.9572.