Hospitals in Waterville and Farmington are increasing visitor restrictions in response to concerns about the proliferation of the influenza virus in Maine.

The Franklin Memorial Hospital Maternal and Child Health Unit in Farmington temporarily won’t admit children under the age of 12 as visitors this flu season unless they are healthy siblings of others already in the hospital, according to a news release Tuesday from the hospital. All other visitors must be feeling well and should wash their hands before and after entering the unit, the notice said.

The temporary measures at are intended to protect babies in the hospital’s unit, according to the news release.

“We need to protect our vulnerable patients,” MaryAnne Goodwin, unit manager, said in the release.

“Because newborns cannot be vaccinated for flu, they should not have any unnecessary exposure to people with respiratory or other contagious illnesses.”

At Inland Hospital in Waterville, visitors are asked to check in at each unit’s nurses station, where the staff is screening for flu symptoms such as a fever and sore throat.

“Those who have flu-like symptoms are provided with a mask and asked to visit another time when they are not experiencing symptoms,” said Rick Barry, vice president of patient care services, in a news release.

At MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta, spokeswoman Sarah Webster said the hospital has not started screening yet and will make the call on whether to start screening based on the virus’s progress in the area.

She said if any visitor at the hospital appears ill, the visitor is given a mask and asked to go home until well again.

She said patients also are told to ask visitors to stay home unless they are well.

The restrictions in Farmington were put in place after the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that outbreaks of flu virus have escalated from being regional to widespread across the state.

An outbreak is defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the occurrence of more cases of disease than normally expected within a specific place or group of people over a given period of time.

In Maine, influenza outbreaks are classified as “widespread” when outbreaks of influenza or increases in influenza-like illness cases and recent laboratory-confirmed influenza cases are reported in at least half of the eight regions of the state.

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