Hospitals easing flu season visitor restrictions

2014-03-14T18:00:00Z 2014-03-15T23:47:10Z Hospitals easing flu season visitor restrictionsVanessa Renderman, (219) 933-3244

Hospitals that imposed visitation restrictions during flu season are starting to relax the policy.

Flu season usually starts in fall and peaks in January or February. Most healthy adults can infect other people one day before symptoms develop and five to seven days after symptoms appear, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

To protect patients, workers and other visitors, several local hospitals impose a restriction policy each flu season to prevent spread of the disease. Policies vary but tend to limit the number of visitors per patient and ask anyone experiencing flulike systems not to visit patients.

A report issued through the Indiana State Department of Health on Thursday shows 58 Hoosiers have died from the flu so far this season. During the same time frame last season, 65 deaths were reported.

The Community Hospital in Munster, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart did not implement restrictions this season because of the flu, spokeswoman Elise Sims said.

And, the hospitals did not experience any significant increase or decrease in flu cases compared to last season, she said.

Visitor restrictions have been dropped at IU Health La Porte and Starke hospitals, IU Health Lakeshore Surgicare and all rehabilitation facilities.

They also were dropped at Porter Regional Hospital. 

The hospital had signs posted at all entrances, cautioning visitors not to visit if they were experiencing flu symptoms, said Kelly Credit, director of system strategy and marketing for Porter Health Care System.

The Valparaiso-area hospital admitted six patients with flu cases in December and two in January.

"The emergency department experienced an influx of influenza patient visits in December but had fewer in January and very little activity in February and March," Credit said.

Local Franciscan Alliance hospitals imposed flu season restrictions.

Franciscan St. Anthony Health hospitals in Crown Point and Michigan City lifted the restrictions because of decreased flu activity in the area.

The Crown Point hospital handled about 120 flu cases this season, which includes inpatients and Emergency Room visits. The Michigan City facility did not notice any major increase or decrease compared to previous years, hospital officials said.

Visitor restrictions remain at Franciscan St. Margaret Health hospitals in Hammond and Dyer because of sporadic cases. Plans are to lift the restrictions in a week or two, hospital officials said.

This season, the Dyer campus has logged 109 flu cases, and the Hammond campus has seen 255.

Methodist Hospitals advises ill visitors to call patients rather than visit in person. As another precaution, the facilities have stations equipped with masks, tissues and antibacterial hand gel, said Patricia Mancos, infection control officer.

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