On Wednesday, the Marion County Health Department in Indianapolis announced that visitors will not be allowed in local hospitals if they have any influenza-like illness, fever or cough. They also said that visitors under 18 will not be allowed unless special arrangements are made, and that the only visitors allowed will be the patient's immediate family, partner or significant other.
The hospital visit restrictions are in response to the rising number of patient visits to local emergency rooms for treatment of influenza-like illnesses. Last week alone there were 403 visits to area emergency rooms for the flu, which reflects a 69 percent increase from the prior week.
The Health Department says the restrictions could be in effect through February, depending on flu statistics, but for now, the restrictions will last until further notice.
Schools are also being asked by the Health Department to report absentee numbers daily, so the agency can determine whether or not to close schools if flu rates get high enough.
Indiana has already had 21 flu deaths this season, and health officials say that two of the deaths occurred in people who were under the age of 18.
Meanwhile, it’s not too late to get a flu shot, although finding one may be difficult due to high demand.
It's recommended that anyone six months of age or older get the shot, especially high risk individuals like the elderly, pregnant women, young children and those with compromised immune systems.
To help prevent spreading the flu, some common tips include the following “three Cs”:
- Clean. Wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water.
- Cover. Cover your cough and sneeze into your arm or a tissue.
- Contain. Stay home from when you’re sick to prevent your germs from spreading.
Whether or not you’ve gotten a flu shot, health officials advise contacting your health care provider if you experience the following flu symptoms:
- Fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
If you want to get a flu shot this week, the Visiting Nurse Service at St. Francis is offering two flu shot clinics on Wednesday and Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Visiting Nurse Service at St. Francis Central Office, located at 4701 N. Keystone Avenue.
Vaccinations will be offered to children six months of age and older, and a limited supply of Thimerosal Free vaccine will also be available. No appointment or prescription is necessary for the clinics.
The cost for a full-dose flu shot is $35. A half-dose for children six to 35 months is $30, and the Thimerosal Free vaccine is $40. Pneumonia vaccinations will also be available for $70.