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Marion County hospitals call for visitor restrictions in response to rise in flu cases

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 9,2016) -- Flu season is just about over, but the virus continues to spread.

Doctors in central Indiana say they’re seeing an increase in flu cases locally. The Indiana State Department of health recently raised its “Flu Activity Level” rating.

In response, hospitals in Marion County will begin temporary visitor restrictions on March 11. According to the Marion County Public Health Department, the move affects hospitals of all major health systems, including Community Health Network, Franciscan St. Francis Health, Indiana University Health, Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, and St. Vincent Health, as well as Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital and Richard L. Roudebush V.A. Medical Center.

The health department said the "Tier 1" restrictions may include:

  • Restricting visitors with symptoms of influenza
  • Restricting visitors under the age of 18
  • Restricting visitation to immediate family as identified by the patient

Visitors should check a hospital's website to learn more about the changes, which will remain in effect as long as needed. During the week of Feb. 21-Feb. 27, the department said 2.4 percent of emergency department visits were for flu-like symptoms. That represented a 74-percent increase in such cases from the previous week.

The Marion County hospitals aren't the only ones making the change. Riverview Health in Noblesville is now restricting visitors after noticing the uptick in flu cases.

Hospital officials say the restrictions are in place to protect both its employees and patients. It’s something the hospital typically does during the winter months, but not often this late into flu season. Riverview Health's Chief Medical Officer says it’s still worth getting a flu shot if you haven’t.

“It’s absolutely not too late, the CDC has recommended flu shots as late as March 31st for this year,” said John Paris, Chief Medical Officer at Riverview Health.

The CDC says flu season typically starts in October and can run through May. Doctors tend to notice a peak in flu cases during February.

State health officials say it’s been a mild flu season, but 19 Hoosiers have died from the virus since October. The CDC recommends anyone older than six months get an annual flu vaccine.