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Indianapolis area hospitals restrict visitors as flu spikes early in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Visitation to all area hospitals is restricted to people over the age of 18 and only those not showing any signs of the flu. This is the latest attempt to curb a potentially deadly flu season.  

Indiana University Health, the state’s largest hospital chain, announced Monday that they’ll be restricting access to 10 central Indiana locations, including their flagship operation, Methodist Hospital and Riley Hospital for Children. In a statement sent to I-Team 8, only two members of the patient’s immediate family, 18 and older, are allowed to in a patient’s room, and the hospital is requiring everyone must wear a mask. Visitors with flu like or COVID symptoms, fever, cough, or the chills are not permitted to visit.  

The emergency room at Franciscan Hospital on the southside of Indianapolis is reporting the highest rate of influenza like illness patients in a decade. 

“Usually flu season peaks in February or March. This year, we are already seeing a very early peak and it is very likely flu and COVID-19 sort of overlapping here in early December and late November. We are definitely running much higher than we have in years and the highest we have in ten years,” Dr. Christopher Doehring from Franciscan Health said. 

The age group filling up the Franciscan emergency department is five to 17. They tend to get the flu and other influenza type illnesses at a higher rate and consequently spread it around.  

“It is also leading to a significant number of flu patients being hospitalized. We are definitely seeing an uptick in COVID-19 patients being hospitalized as well,” Dr. Doehring said. 

Typically the younger patients are not hospitalized, but do put a strain on resources. Seven weeks ago, Indiana was listed as low risk by the C-D-C. As of the first week in December, Indiana is listed as red hot.  

Community Health Network, Franciscan Health Indianapolis, Ascension St Vincent, Indiana University Health, and Eskenazi Health all participate in the Indianapolis coalition for patient safety. This coalition was organized in 2003 to share best practices and information.  The Marion County Health Department is asking participating hospitals to restrict visitors to the tier. A one visitor policy is effective immediately. If you are not related to a patient under the age of 18 or have flu symptoms, steer clear of the hospitals. 

The restrictions are likely to stay in place until flu season ends next spring.