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 similar policies.
In 2009, such restrictions were in place for about two months in Marion County.
"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.