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What we know: Hospitals implement visitor restrictions for flu season

As reported flu cases continue to rise, local hospitals are implementing visitor restrictions to limit the spread of the flu and other respiratory infections.

The Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association announced that adult, short-term acute care hospitals will implement restrictions beginning today in an effort to minimize the spread of respiratory infections to hospital patients, employees and community members.

The region has seen a 192 percent increase of reported flu cases since Dec. 2, and a 61 percent increase in the past week, according to the GDAH. The policy is in place through March 2018. The policy includes: no visitation by anyone who is ill with any respiratory symptoms including coughing, fever, chills, headache, vomiting, sore throat and muscle aches or diarrhea.

» INITIAL REPORT: With flu cases on the rise, local hospitals to restrict visitors

“The restrictions also include not permitting children under the age 14 in the hospital for visitation purposes or anyone who exhibits flu or cold symptoms,” said Bryan Bucklew, president and CEO of GDAHA. “Children are particularly likely to carry viruses since they are heavily exposed in the school setting.”

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Influenza activity has increased in recent weeks, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health. For the week of Dec. 10 to Dec. 16, confirmed flu-associated hospitalizations increased nearly 59 percent statewide compared to the week prior, and emergency department visits related to the flu increased more than 10 percent.

Reported cases of influenza-associated hospitalizations were above the seasonal threshold, and there were 228 influenza-associated hospitalizations reported that week, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Dr. Marni Teramana, a Kettering Medical Center emergency medicine doctor, said now is typically the time hospitals start seeing an increase in flu cases. She said it’s never too late to protect against the flu with a vaccination, as cases will continue to occur through the winter until March.

“We’re certainly seeing an increase in Influenza A, seems to be more so than Influenza B,” she said. “Either way, we’re seeing lots and lots of viruses, you know it is that time of season where all the colds and coughs and viruses are around, you’re trapped in these closed environments and you’re sharing all of those germs readily.”

Hospitalization numbers are well above last year and above the five-year average. Last year, flu activity did not reach this level until mid-January. Hospitalizations due to the flu last year started to increase in December and peaked the last week of February.

Springfield Regional Medical Center and Urbana Hospital will both be implementing visitor restrictions as part of the regional initiative, Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said.

“The numbers continue to hold steady or rise,” he said. “It’s here. We’re trying to isolate the more at-risk patients who may be in the hospital for other things.”

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There have been no pediatric deaths in Ohio related to the flu this winter, while there were six deaths last flu season. There have been 639 confirmed hospitalizations for the flu through Dec. 16. In Montgomery County, there were a total of 103 cases as of Dec. 16.

Angela Booth Jones, director of infection prevention of Premier Health, said this is the second time that local hospitals have implemented a visitor restriction for the flu since the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association formed. Booth Jones said the influx in cases usually occurs later in the season around February, and the hospitals do expect another surge of flu cases to occur.

“We do recommend still getting a flu shot,” she said.

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