SHEA updates hospital visitor recommendations to limit spread of disease

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology has published new guidelines for hospitals and health systems looking to set up precautions for visitors who visit patients with infectious diseases. The recommendations were published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

Some of the recommendations for visitors include:

  • Have visitors perform hand hygiene before entering and right after leaving a patient room.
  • Do not require visitors seeing patients who have methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or Vancomycin-resistant enterococci infections to undergo isolation precautions if MRSA and VRE are endemic in the area.
  • Have visitors undergo contact isolation precautions if seeing patients with Clostridium difficile and norovirus as well as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae and Klebsiellal pnemoniae carbapenemase infections.
  • Have visitors going to rooms with droplet or airborne precautions wear surgical masks.
  • It may not be practical for visitors who are there for an extended period of time (like parents) to wear personal protective equipment, as they likely had extensive exposure to the patient before hospitalization.

"The guidance is intended to strike a balance between visitor and patient safety, the potential for pathogen spread in hospitals, the psychosocial implications of isolation and the feasibility of enforcement," said L. Silvia Munoz-Price, MD, PhD, a lead author of the guidance.

The guideline authors urge hospitals to implement visitor precautions only if they can be realistically enforced and evaluated for compliance.

The recommendations were developed based on available evidence, practical considerations, a survey of SHEA members, author opinion and consideration of potential harm.

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