Two and a half years after COVID-19 shoved flu out of the respiratory disease spotlight, influenza is back, leading all Marion County hospitals to put visitor restrictions in place.
In the week that included Thanksgiving last month, Indianapolis emergency departments saw the highest rate of flu-like illnesses in 10 years, according to a news release from the Marion County Public Health Department announcing the new policy. The highest rate of flu-like illness occurred among children ages 5 to 17.
The Indiana Department of Health reported that for the week ending Nov. 26, nearly 7% of emergency department visits were for flu-like illness, which is defined as a temperature of 100°F or above along with a cough and/or sore throat. The state has seen 11 flu deaths so far and three outbreaks at long-term care facilities.
So far the dominant strain of flu this year has been the H3N2 strain, which typically hits young children and the elderly the hardest, the Marion County Health Department said in a release. Last year in the United States the most deadliest week for pediatric flu deaths saw four children die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Already this year the flu claimed the lives of six children across the country in one week.
Flu season runs from early October to the end of May, with typical peak activity falling somewhere between December and March.
At the same time as flu activity has reached the "very high" stage, respiratory syncytial virus and COVID-19 are also circulating. The number of patients in Indiana hospitalized with COVID-19 increased week over week by 117 to 520 as of Nov. 29, according to the Indiana Department of Health.
To help prevent the spread of such respiratory viruses within the hospital, all the health systems in Marion County are implementing temporary visitor restrictions, including limiting visitors to two immediate family members whom the patient identified, no visitors under age 8 and no one with respiratory disease symptoms. Visitors also will be required to wear masks.
The new restrictions apply to all Community Health Network hospitals, including those in Anderson and Kokomo, and all Franciscan Health in central Indiana, including those in Mooresville and Carmel.
Health officials encourage everyone to get their flu (and COVID-19) vaccine and for visitors to hospitals outside of Indianapolis to check the website for any restrictions in place in those facilities.Contact IndyStar staff reporter Shari Rudavsky at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @srudavsky
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Flu 'very high;' Marion County hospitals implement visitor restrictions