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Updated 10:00 AM November 9, 2009

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New visitor rules at U-M, St. Joseph Mercy health systems

During the current flu season, and until further notice, the U-M Health System (UMHS) and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System (SJMHS) now are putting in place temporary visitor guidelines designed to slow the spread of all types of flu.

These new guidelines apply to all UMHS hospitals, health centers and other treatment locations throughout Southeast Michigan and the SJMHS hospitals and health centers including St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, Livingston, Oakland, Saline, St. Mary Mercy Livonia and Chelsea Community Hospital.

Both major health systems ask for the public's help in protecting patients by cooperating with these guidelines:

• People who are experiencing flu-like symptoms should not come to any UMHS or SJMHS facility for any reason, except to seek care. This includes not only patients' loved ones but those with business reasons for visiting these facilities. Flu-like symptoms are a fever over 100 degrees, together with a cough, sore throat or runny nose. Exceptions will be allowed only with approval of the patient's care team.

• No visitors under the age of 16 will be allowed to visit any hospitalized patient, except in certain circumstances that must be cleared by the patient's care team. Visitors under the age of 16 strongly are discouraged in outpatient settings as well. This age group is most susceptible to the H1N1 flu virus, and high rates of illness are being seen in children and teens.

• No patient who has been admitted to any hospital or emergency department belonging to either health system may have more than two visitors at a time. Visitors should be limited to those who are essential to the emotional and physical support of the patient. Exceptions can be made by the patient's care team and should be approved in advance before visitors arrive at the hospital.

• Examples of situations that would warrant an exception: if a person with flu-like symptoms or under the age of 16 is essential to support a patient, if a person under 16 is the parent of a patient or if a patient is close to death. Visitors allowed under these exceptions will be asked to wear masks as appropriate.

Hospitals across the country are implementing new visitor guidelines to slow the spread of flu, which has become widespread in Michigan. Patients who are hospitalized include many people who are much more likely than the general public to develop severe complications if they catch the flu.

"While we recognize the inconvenience of visitor restrictions, it is very important that we seek to provide a safe and healthy environment for patients, staff and visitors," says Anthony Denton, senior associate director and chief operating officer of U-M Hospitals and Health Centers. "We look forward to easing visitor restrictions in the future when it appears safe to do so."

"The physicians and staff at St. Joe's and U of M hospitals are doing everything they can to keep patients healthy during this flu season. But, the community can help us too," says Dr. Lakshmi Halasyamani, vice president for quality and systems improvement, SJMHS.

More information on the new guidelines and other flu-related topics is available on the Web sites of both health systems: and

Those with questions about the policy may e-mail U-M at or go to the "Contact Us" section at

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