MISHAWAKA – One area hospital has decided to limit visitation to patients in light of large numbers of influenza cases. Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka is restricting visitation to its facilities, according to public relations manager Amy Ponzillo.
“SJRMC is committed to the safety and well being of our patients, visitors and staff, and as a result we have implemented some restrictions,” she wrote in an email today. “In an effort to prevent the spread of the influenza virus, we are taking additional precautions by limiting visitors to our facilities.”
The restrictions limit visitors to two healthy adults at a time per visitor, according to Ponzillo. Individuals under the age of 18 years are not allowed to visit admitted patients, and they are asking anyone exposed to the flu within the last five days to choose not to visit, she added.
The Associated Press reported today that Indianapolis-area hospitals are restricting visitation because of the flu.
Two other local hospitals haven’t made the same decision — yet.
Shelley Rody, media and special events coordinator for Elkhart General Hospital, said restricting visitors to the hospital was considered, but after looking at statistics, officials decided it wasn’t needed.
“After looking at the data, the number of positive tests and cases, it has really leveled off, and it peaked earlier,” Rody said today. “As of today, there’s no restriction. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen tomorrow, but it’s not today.”
Maggie Scroope, manager of community and media relations at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, said the hospital has not yet limited visitation but has seen more cases this season than in the past.
As of last week, the hospital staff has seen 168 cases of the flu since they began tracking in November. Out of those cases, 52 patients had to be hospitalized, she added.
“Please don’t come to work or send your kids to school or day care if you are having symptoms of the flu,” Scroope said as advice. “Cough or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve.”
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Elkhart General’s emergency department has seen 763 cases with complaints of flu-like symptoms, and testing showed 131 positive cases since Nov. 1, Rody said.
“There’s nothing abnormal,” Rody said. “It spiked a bit earlier than the average flu season. We are following the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines for transmission. We’re trying to isolate patients with symptoms.”
The Marion County Health Department, which covers Indianapolis, 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, according to the Associated Press.
The visitation policy goes into effect Friday for Marion County.
Rody said Elkhart General adopted a similar visitation policy after the H1N1, also known as swine flu, outbreak. However, such a need has not yet presented itself during this flu season, she said.
As of Wednesday, state officials said, the flu has caused 27 Indiana deaths, as reported by the Associated Press. Of those deaths, 17 were reported within the last week. Nine of those who died had received flu vaccines.
Staff writer Amanda Gray: