REED CITY — Visits from friends and family during a hospital stay can brighten someone’s day, but visits by sick people can endanger patients’ health.

In order to help curb the spread of flu and illness, Spectrum Health hospitals, including the Reed City and Big Rapids facilities, are asking visitors with flu-like symptoms to avoid seeing patients. The goal isn’t to prevent patients from having visitors, but to protect the most vulnerable people in the hospital, said Sue Snavley, Spectrum Health public relations manager.

“The most vulnerable populations to flu are babies, those who are ill or the elderly,” Snavley said. “That’s a lot of the people who are inpatients in a hospital.”

Spectrum staff will be doing a “soft screen” of visitors by asking if they’ve had a fever or other flu symptoms recently, Snavley explained. Once staff members have determined visitors are healthy, they will give them a sticker to show they’ve been screened.

People with symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, vomiting or diarrhea, rash, draining sores, runny nose or congestion are asked not to visit.

“Precautions are necessary as flu season escalates, to protect vulnerable patients, as well as other visitors and staff,” said Scott Lombard, director of clinical support services, in a press release.

“We realize that it’s important for patients to have contact with loved ones,” Lombard said. “But with flu on the rise we encourage those who are not completely well to contact patients by phone, or visit our web site to send an email message to a patient.

“Please remember that influenza is highly contagious, easily transmitted, and can be very dangerous, especially for elderly, frail or young people. One of the most important tools in fighting the spread of flu is limiting exposure.”

The Big Rapids facility recently became a Spectrum Health hospital, so these guidelines may be new to people in the area, Snavley noted. However, this process has been in place for about four years throughout the Spectrum Health organization and it’s a proven process that’s helped in other locations, she said.

“We are trying to ensure that all visitors are healthy visitors,” Lombard said. “That’s important all year, but really critical during flu season. We thank everyone for helping in this effort.”