Hospital patients grateful for tightened flu restrictions

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As Marion County health officials announce restrictions on hospital visits to limit flu exposure, patient's families are grateful to hear they are taking precautions.

Since October, nearly 2,200 people have come to Indianapolis emergency rooms with flu-like illnesses. That's why big changes to stop the spread of the flu start Friday. (See details here.)

Eyewitness News spent time with one family at Methodist Hospital that welcomes the new flu restrictions and hopes everyone plays by the rules.

Aunt Sara Calima is thrilled she's able to hold baby Sophia. She says she's only visiting the hospital to meet her new niece because she took the right precautions.

"I had my flu shot three weeks ago," she said.

Calima visited her brother and sister-in-law today in good health. She remembers ten years ago when she had her son Emilio in a local hospital, and a family visitor made her newborn very sick.

"Emilio ended up with the horrible flu. He was coughing and his nose was running. He had a fever. For a three-day-old baby, it was so hard for me to see him like that," she said.

Starting Friday, all the hospital systems in Marion County will restrict visitors to stop this flu outbreak.

"I really believe it. What they are doing is perfect," said Calima.

No visitors with flu-like illnesses, fever or cough will be allowed in. No visitors under 18 can be at a hospital without special arrangements. No one other than immediate family, partners, or significant others will be allowed in Indianapolis hospitals.

Last week, there were 403 ER visits in Indianapolis for flu-like illness, a 69-percent increase from the previous week.

"We are hoping by the end of January we will be on the down side," said Dr. Virginia Caine, Marion County Health Department.

The last time hospitals put in restrictions like was during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009.

This year's flu strain is stronger than doctors expected, and with the flu shot only being 60 to 70 percent effective, health professionals feel these restrictions are necessary. So do families here at the hospital.

"Please get your flu shot. Get the little ones a flu shot," said Calima.

The largest group seeking ER attention last week was children under five. That's why starting as soon as possible, schools in Marion County will report daily absentee numbers. IPS says the district hasn't seen "alarming" absenteeism numbers.