27 flu deaths reported as Marion Co. hospitals make plans to place restrictions on visitors

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INDIANAPOLIS – New numbers show 27 people in Indiana have died from flu-related causes–and as flu season intensifies, Indianapolis-area hospitals plan to put new restrictions in place for visitors in hopes of limiting the spread of the illness.

The Marion County Public Health Department requested the temporary restrictions, which are set to start Friday. Under the guidelines, no visitors beyond immediate family or under the age of 18 will be allowed to visit patients. In addition, no visitors with flu-like symptoms will be allowed inside Marion County hospitals.

The health department reported 403 emergency department visits countywide for flu-like illnesses, a figure representing 3.9 percent of all visits and a 69-percent increase from the week before. Hospitals and health networks participating in the Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety will implement the restrictions, including hospitals within IU Health, St. Vincent Health, Franciscan St. Francis Health, and Community Health Network, as well as Wishard Hospital and the Roudebush V.A. Medical Center.

The health department set the following “Tier 1” guidelines:

  • No visitors with influenza-like illnesses, fever or cough.
  • No visitors under the age of 18 – unless special arrangements are made.
  • No visitors allowed beyond immediate family, partner or significant other.

Similar restrictions went in place in 2009 during an outbreak of H1N1 and lasted two months. Health officials said they would continue to review the necessity and effectiveness of the policy throughout the flu season.

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, more than 27 people in Indiana have died from influenza, including two people under the age of 18.

“The number of possible flu cases in Marion County increased dramatically last week,” said Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department. “We must take extra precautions to prevent the spread of this virus to patients, visitors and people who work in area hospitals.”

Indiana is one of more than 40 states in the midst of widespread flu activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health officials continue to recommend flu shots for anyone who hasn’t gotten one. The vaccine is 60 to 70 percent effective.

The Marion County Public Health Department will hold a free flu shot clinic on Friday, Jan. 18, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the health department’s training center on 4012 N. Rural St. Flu shots will also be administered for free on that day only at all of the health department’s district health offices. Click here for a complete list of flu shot locations.

Children ages 18 and under must be with a parent or guardian to receive a shot. For a list of locations, call the Flu Hotline at 221-2121, or visit the Marion County Public Health Department’s website.

The current vaccine protects patients against the three most common strains of flu: H3N2, H1N1, and Influenza B. Health officials said the H3N2 strain appears to be the predominant strain for the current flu season.

You can find a list of flu vaccine providers here.

The health department recommends the flu vaccine for anyone six months or older, adding that people at risk of flu complications should get vaccinated. High risk individuals include pregnant women, young children, people with chronic illnesses and/or compromised immune systems and the elderly.

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