Marion County reports first flu-related death of the season
Marion County Public Health Department Director Dr. Virginia A. Caine is announcing temporary visitation restrictions for Indianapolis-area hospitals in response to increased flu activity and the county's first influenza-related death this flu season.
All hospitals and health networks that participate in the Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety have agreed to implement Tier 1 of the Patient Visitation Policy. Tier 1 is the least restrictive option. The policy was developed in 2009 during the H1N1 outbreak. This is the third time for activating restrictions using this policy; Tier 1 was implemented Jan. 16- Feb.8, 2013, during last year's flu season.
Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health and Sidney & Lois Ezkenazi Hospital plan to begin visitor restrictions on Monday, Jan. 20. All other hospitals within IU Health, St. Vincent Health, Franciscan St. Francis Health, and Community Health Network, and the Roudebush V.A. Medical Center, will implement the policy beginning Wednesday, Jan. 22.
The Tier 1 option of the patient visitation policy has the following restrictions:
· 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.
Visitors should call the hospital before arriving if they have any questions about the restrictions.
"The flu is always a cause of concern because it can cause significant illness and, in certain cases, lead to death," said Dr. Caine. "These restrictions are designed as an extra precaution to help protect patients, visitors and hospital staff from unnecessary exposure to the flu virus."
Dr. Caine said the visitor restrictions will stay in place until she and the coalition decide they are no longer needed, based on regular assessments of Marion County flu data and potential exposure to patients.
For the week of Jan. 5-11, Marion County reports that 2.32 percent of all hospital emergency department visits countywide were for influenza-like illness (ILI). While this rate is lower than the 3.9 percent ILI reported during the same week last year, the recent increase in flu activity combined with the first flu-related death of the season is a cause for concern. Flu activity peaked at 5.09 percent of ILI in Marion County last season.
Currently, Indiana is in the "widespread" flu category as monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the Indiana State Department of Health for the week ending Jan. 11, the statewide ILI rate from hospital emergency departments was 3.39 percent.
"This decision was made to put patient safety first," said Dr. Charles Miramonti, chairman, Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety. "The hope is we can stay ahead of the game and prevent the spread of the flu from reaching a critical point. Doing what's best to improve outcomes for patients is why the Indianapolis Coalition for Patent Safety exists."
The Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety is comprised of chief executive, medical, nursing, quality, safety and pharmacy officers from six Indianapolis health systems. In addition, there is participation by entities such as Eli Lilly, Indiana and Purdue Universities, the Regenstrief Institute, Inc., Indiana Hospital Association and HealthCare Excel. The coalition is a non-profit public charity organization.
Dr. Caine urges everyone to get a flu shot - it's not too late. The Marion County Public Health Department offers low-cost flu shots at its district health offices. Flu shots are $15 for adults; $10 for kids ages 2-18; and free for children under two years old. For a list of district health office locations, call the Flu Hotline at 317-221-2121 or visit MCHD.com.