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Hospital monitoring flu, not yet restricting visits

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Signs at all entrances to Hancock Regional Hospital urge people to avoid visiting the hospital if they are experiencing symptoms of the flu. (Jim Mayfield/Daily Reporter)
Signs at all entrances to Hancock Regional Hospital urge people to avoid visiting the hospital if they are experiencing symptoms of the flu. (Jim Mayfield/Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — Hancock Regional Hospital is asking people who are experiencing flu-like symptoms to think twice about visiting patients.

The hospital hasn’t officially restricted visitation, as some other hospitals in central Indiana have done. But officials are monitoring the situation closely, they said Monday.

The country is heading into the peak of flu season, which has spiked during the month of February 14 times since 1982, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Friday, Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, along with the Marion County Health Department and other city hospitals, placed temporary restrictions on hospital visitation, including disallowing children under the age of 18 and anyone exhibiting flu symptoms from entering hospitals.

Locally, Hancock Regional Hospital officials are urging against unnecessary hospital visits and asking those who might be experiencing flu symptoms to stay at home unless a hospital visit is necessary.

“We’re monitoring the situation very closely,” said Bobby Keen, hospital CEO and president. “So far, we have not received any direction from the state department of health, and we’re waiting to hear about its thoughts and direction on the matter.”

In the meantime hospital officials on Monday began placing signs at all hospital entrances encouraging people to not go into the hospital if they are experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches and fatigue.

For residents who need to go to the hospital for tests or other procedures, staff will have masks available at the door, and visitors will be encouraged to wear them as well.

According to the CDC, Indiana is experiencing only a moderate influenza outbreak.

As of its latest update on Jan. 15, the Indiana State Department of Health reported only 4 percent of those reporting to hospital emergency departments throughout the state complained of flu-like symptoms.

To date, there have been 11 influenza-related deaths in the state.

“We’re seeing it run right about normal over here,” said Darla Carter, hospital infection control manager.

Carter said the predominant strain showing up this year is Type A, H1N1, which is included in the current flu shot.

“That’s good news,” Carter said. “It’s still not too late to get vaccinated.”

Overall, the common-sense rules apply to keep the flu at bay, Carter said. Good hand hygiene is essential, and if you’re sick, stay home, she said.

Officials said they will continue to monitor the hospital’s admittance policy as the flu season progresses, making any necessary adjustments or increasing restrictions as directed by state health officials or as the situation warrants.

But for now, they are simply asking for the public’s cooperation.

“If you don’t have to come, then we’re asking you please do not, and please do not bring family members that don’t have to be here,” Keen said.

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