No, at least not to the extent that they were last year. Please check with individual hospitals to determine their policy for the 2010-2011 influenza season.
During the 2009 A(H1N1) pandemic, all major hospitals in Region G restricted visits by children to hospitalized patients. The reason for this was that children and young adults were the primay targets of the 2009 pandemic virus. People infected by influenza don't develop symptoms of their infection until about three days after the virus enters their body. They are capable of spreading the virus for 24-48 hours before the first cough or fever appears. Some people may have only cough and sore throat and never develop fever. Due to concerns about an expanding pandemic, and to early data indicating that mortality due to the new virus was unusually high for some age groups, area hospitals instituted their restricted visitation policies. Those policies were relaxed considerably by December of 2009 when it was clear that the "second wave" of the pandemic was over and flu activity nationwide had subsided.
Spread of influenza can happen anywhere: in schools, in shopping malls, on buses, within families. Most people who develop an influenza infection experience a 3-5 day illness, and the vast majority recover fully. However, people with underlying medical problems and those over age 65 years are at higher risk for dying from influenza.
Patients who have been admitted to a hospital are by definition at "high risk" for complications if they develop flu. The visitation policies in place at all area hospitals are designed to protect these vulnerable patients by minimizing their contact with the people most likely to harbor the virus.
Any person with sudden onset of fever and respiratory symptoms during the flu season may have an influenza infection. These people should not visit sick friends or relatives in the hospital for the reasons outlined above.
Local hospitals and public health authorities will continue to monitor for influenza. If it appears that the situation in Augusta is worsening significantly, more severe restrictions on visitation may be warranted.