ACCOMACK Co., Va. (Delmarva Now) -- Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital has placed a temporary ban on children ages 12 and younger visiting the hospital because of the widespread flu.
Influenza, commonly called the flu, is currently considered to be "widespread" throughout Virginia, according to a press release from the hospital.
That means at least half the regions in Virginia have had laboratory-confirmed flu diagnoses, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
Influenza has caused hundreds of deaths in the United States this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The prohibition on young visitors at Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital in Onancock is to protect their health as well as that of already-vulnerable patients, and will be lifted once the threat of transmitting influenza has decreased, according to the release.
The flu is easily transmitted through droplets in the air that then come in contact with mucus membranes.
“One typical example is that an infected person sneezes or coughs into their hand, and then that hand touches a door handle, phone, or other communal property,” said Shelia Corbin, Infection Control Director at Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital.
“Because the flu virus can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, the next few people to touch that item are at risk of contracting the virus, especially if they then touch their mouth, nose or food without first washing off the virus,” she said.
Frequent handwashing in warm water is the most effective way to stop the virus' spread, according to healthcare providers.
Hand sanitizer can be used if handwashing is not available.
The prohibition against younger visitors to the hospital does not apply to those seeking medical care.
"Patients seeking care are always welcome, regardless of age," the release said.
Hospital staff encourage any visitor of any age who does not feel well to postpone their visit to hospital patients.
Anyone experiencing symptoms of flu should call their primary care doctor for an appointment. In some cases, providers can alleviate the symptoms and reduce the duration of symptoms, according to the release.