Eastern Maine Medical Center announced Friday that next week it will begin screening the public for flu-like symptoms in an effort to reduce the risk of influenza for patients, staff and visitors.

Beginning Tuesday, members of the public will be directed to specific entrances in order to allow for the screening and proper implementation of the temporary visitor policy.

That policy includes:

— Limiting the number of visitors to two per patient at a time everywhere in the hospital.

— Establishing a minimum visitor age of 12. Younger visitors are asked to please connect with family or friends by phone or in person when they are discharged from the hospital.

— Limiting access to patients exhibiting flu-like symptoms such as fever, upper respiratory symptoms and muscle pain.

“While we are strong advocates for family and friend involvement in our patients’ healing process, the current unprecedented flu season represents a significant risk for our patients, visitors, and staff,” Dr. James Jarvis, the Bangor hospital’s senior vice president and senior physician executive, said in a press release. “We have implemented temporary measures to promote preventive habits and to decrease exposure to vulnerable populations.”

The latest flu data in Maine show that it has so far caused 34 deaths, 667 hospitalizations and outbreaks in 77 nursing homes, schools and other institutions this season. That’s considerably more serious than the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, one of the worst flu seasons in recent memory. During that outbreak, 21 adults died from the illness and about 250 Mainers were hospitalized.

Nationally, the 2017-2018 influenza season is now being called the worst since that H1N1 pandemic.

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