INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — 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
“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 Friday 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
Twenty of those who have died had underlying medical conditions such as
heart disease, the report said.
The vaccine for the illness is still available across the state. The Marion
County health department will hold a free flu shot clinic Friday from 1 to 5
p.m. at the training center at 4012 N. Rural St. Those younger than 18 must
be accompanied by a parent or guardian.