Visiting the hospital this flu season? Phone first
The worst flu season in a decade has crippled hospital emergency rooms across the country, but doctors and nurses are still delivering babies, taking care of injured patients and providing all other necessary services to help keep America healthy.
Now, in an effort to stave off additional flu outbreaks, dozens of 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 letter to all hospitals last week, the Illinois Department of Public Health advised restrictions on visitors under 18 and a limit of two visitors to a patient at one time. Several area hospitals have revised the restrictions slightly. For instance, at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago and Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, visitors under 12 are not being permitted to visit inpatients.
“This is really to protect the health and safety of patients, visitors and personnel,” says Teresa Chou, manager of infection control and prevention at Advocate Illinois Masonic. “Many of the patients who are hospitalized are at their most vulnerable to infection. We want to make certain they are not exposed to unnecessary risk while in our care.”
The flu season has reached epidemic proportions, with cases already being reported as widespread in 47 states by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“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—cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat or fever—please stay home until you’re feeling better. You can always visit by phone.”
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