Hospitals implement visitor restrictions for flu prevention
Hospitals throughout the nation are ramping up for the peak of the flu season, which is just beginning to hit the Chicagoland area, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With an increasing number of patients being hospitalized, the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) are advocating for flu vaccinations for those who have not yet received them.
In a further effort to help stave off flu outbreaks within health care facilities, some hospitals across Illinois and the country are restricting visitors. So if you’re planning to visit a friend or loved one in the hospital over the next couple of months, you may want to telephone first.
In a release shared publically last week, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) warned of a widespread increase in flu cases across the state and has advocated flu vaccinations for those who have not yet received them. In addition, many hospitals have begun implementing restrictions on younger visitors, as well as a limit of two visitors to a patient at one time.
Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, along with four other Advocate hospitals, including Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Sherman Hospital in Elgin and Trinity Hospital in Chicago, for instance, are now restricting pediatric visitors, limiting two visitors per patient at one time, and asking anyone with flu-like symptoms—fever, cough, runny or stuffy nose and sore throat—not to visit. In addition, health care providers at the hospital have all been required to be vaccinated.
“These measures are to protect the health and safety of patients and visitors,” says Teresa Chou, MPH, MS, RN, CIC, manager, infection prevention and control, at Illinois Masonic Medical Center. “Many of the patients who are hospitalized are most vulnerable to infection. We want to make certain they are not exposed to the flu unnecessarily while in our care.”
Typically, the flu season reaches its peak in February or early March, but cases have already been reported in all 50 states, according to the latest information from the CDC. It is widespread in at least 35 states, including Illinois.
“It’s up to each individual hospital to decide what restrictions they will place on visitation, based on what’s happening in their own community,” Chou says. “If you know someone in the hospital, I would recommend calling first before going for a visit. And, if you have any symptoms of cold or flu yourself, please stay home until you’re feeling better. You can always visit by phone.”
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