As flu activity spreads throughout the United States -- reaching epidemic levels after killing at least 20 children so far – Marion County Public Health Department Director Dr. Virginia A. Caine announced Friday that temporary visitation restrictions are being implemented in Indianapolis hospitals following the city’s first influenza-related death this year.
All area hospitals participating in the Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety have agreed to implement Tier 1, beginning on Monday, Jan. 20. Tier 1 is the least restrictive option of the Patient Visitation Policy, which was created in 2009 when the H1N1 virus first made its appearance during the swine flu pandemic.
Since then, Tier 1 restrictions have been reactivated once during last year's flu season from Jan. 16 to Feb.8, 2013, making this year the third time such limits have been placed on hospitals. This season also marks the first time the H1N1 virus has made a comeback since 2009.
Visitor restrictions will be in effect starting Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at two Indianapolis hospitals: 1) Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health; and 2) Sidney & Lois Ezkenazi Hospital (formerly Wishard Hospital).
Beginning Wednesday, Jan. 22, all other hospitals that are part of IU Health, including St. Vincent Health, Franciscan St. Francis Health, Community Health Network, and the Roudebush V.A. Medical Center, will also implement Tier 1 visitation restrictions as follows:
1. No visitors who have influenza-like illnesses, including fever or cough, will be allowed to see patients in hospitals.
2. No visitors who are under 18 years of age will be allowed, unless specific arrangements are made before-hand.
3. No visitors will be allowed to see patients, except for immediate family members, spouses or significant others.
If you have any questions regarding a particular hospital’s visitation restrictions, you should call the hospital prior to arriving.
In the meantime, visitor restrictions at Indianapolis hospitals will continue until Dr. Caine and the Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety decides such limits are no longer necessary.
"The flu is always a cause of concern because it can cause significant illness and, in certain cases, lead to death," said Dr. Caine. "These restrictions are designed as an extra precaution to help protect patients, visitors and hospital staff from unnecessary exposure to the flu virus."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Safety (CDC), influenza activity in the state of Indiana is in the "widespread" flu category.
"This decision was made to put patient safety first," said Dr. Charles Miramonti, chairman, Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety. "The hope is we can stay ahead of the game and prevent the spread of the flu from reaching a critical point. Doing what's best to improve outcomes for patients is why the Indianapolis Coalition for Patent Safety exists."
Meanwhile, it’s still not too late for Hoosiers to get a flu vaccine. Low-cost flu shots are being provided by the Marion County Public Health Department offers low-cost flu shots at its district health offices for only $15 for adults; $10 for kids between the ages of 2-18; and free for children under two years old. For a district health office near you, call the Flu Hotline at 317-221-2121 or visit MCHD.com.