Updated 3:30 p.m.
Fighting the flu: Some hospitals banning visitors
No visitation bans in place at Madison, Carrollton hospitals; officials monitoring cases
Friday, January 18, 2013 10:00 AM
Area hospitals are not yet restricting visitors, but several Indiana and Kentucky medical centers have taken that step this week to curb the spread of the flu.
Updated - 3:30 p.m.
King's Daughters' Hospital asks that only immediate family members visit patients in the hospital.
Dave Ommen, spokesperson with King's Daughters' Health, said officials made the decision today for patient visitation be limited to only immediate family members because of the growing number of local influenza cases.
"If someone is sick or not feeling well, we're asking they not come visit," Ommen said.
The restriction will remain in effect throughout the weekend. The situation will be re-evaluated on Monday whether to keep the restriction in place.
"It's always an ongoing process," he said.
Flyers will be posted on the main entrances to the hospital to alert visitors of the patient visitation restrictions.
Neither King's Daughters' Hospital nor Carroll County Memorial Hospital have set limits on who may visit patients as flu cases continue to rise.
"At this particular time, we have not restricted visitation," King's Daughters' Heath spokesperson Dave Ommen said.
But that's not to say restricted visitation won't happen at a later date, he said.
It's an ongoing evaluation process, Ommen said, with hospital officials watching the number of flu cases in the area.
"It's been discussed when that point might be necessary," Ommen said, but it isn't to that point yet.
Officials at Carroll County Memorial Hospital haven't restricted visitation. The hospital is giving out information about flu symptoms and ways to prevent the spread of the illness, but there are no restrictions on visitors.
Other hospitals across Indiana announced restrictions on visitors Wednesday in hopes of preventing the spread of flu, which has claimed the lives of 27 people in the state this season.
Indianapolis health officials asked area hospitals to implement a policy developed in 2009 during the H1N1 pandemic. It prohibits people with flu-like illnesses from visiting hospital patients. Additionally, visits are restricted to immediate family, partners and significant others. All visitors younger than 18 must make special arrangements to see a patient.
Hospitals in Bloomington, Lafayette, Munster and Evansville are adopting similar policies.
In 2009, such restrictions were in place for about two months in Marion County.
"This policy is a proven approach to reduce the spread of flu," said Charles Miramonti, chairman of the Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety. "You have to move early for something like this."
The spread of flu in the area has not yet reached critical levels, but the illness is still on the rise, said Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department.
Last week, the health department reported 403 emergency department visits countywide for flu-like illnesses, a 69 percent increase from the previous week when emergency departments saw 238 visits for flu-like illnesses.
The new visitation policy goes into effect today for Marion County hospitals. Employees at hospital welcoming desks will ask visitors whether they are sick and instruct them to visit at another time if they meet criteria the policy mentions.
Indiana State Health Department spokesman Ken Severson said the agency is still urging Indiana residents to get flu shots because it's not too late to benefit from the vaccine's protections.
"There are ample supplies of the vaccine around the state," he said.
Health officials say it takes about two weeks for the vaccine's full protection to kick in. The vaccines are especially recommended for older people, young children and anyone with medical conditions such as heart or lung diseases that put them at high risk of dangerous flu complications.
The state's ongoing flu outbreak has claimed 27 lives, with 17 of those deaths reported during the past week. At least nine of those who died had received flu vaccine shots, the health department said in its weekly flu report Wednesday.
Twenty of those who have died had underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, the report said.
The flu vaccine is still available across the state. The Jefferson County Health Department offers vaccines from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday on a walk-in basis, administrator Tammy Monroe said.
Vaccines cost $20 per person, but the health department will bill Medicare for people ages 65 and older. The vaccines are free for children ages 18 and under that qualify for the free Vaccines For Children Program.
"At this point, we have plenty of vaccines," Monroe said.
Area pharmacies also are offering the flu vaccine, and in many cases, the cost of the shot is covered by health insurance coverage.