Michigan Hospitals Restrict Patient Visitors In Wake Of Widespread Flu

January 14, 2020

Michigan hospitals are restricting visitations to protect vulnerable patients from the flu. All Beaumont Health hospitals, Ascension Michigan hospitals, and the McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey have set new rules restricting who can visit patients during the 2019-2020 flu season.

To visit patients, visitors must be healthy, must be at least 12 years old, and must be an immediate family member of the patient.

“[Patients] already have medical illnesses that they’re here for,” said Registered Nurse Patty Dallaire. “It could be their heart, their lungs, and then you pile influenza on top of that and it makes it even worse.”

Michigan has been ranked as the second-sickest state in the country this flu season. One report from Kinsa Health found that 7% of Michiganders are currently experiencing flu-like symptoms. That’s 700,000 people.

The first influenza pediatric deaths of the 2019-2020 flu season in Michigan have also recently been confirmed. The deaths involved children from Shiawassee and Wayne counties who were infected with Influenza B. Up to 32 influenza pediatric deaths have been reported so far this flu season.

“These tragic deaths are a reminder of how serious influenza can be,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive for health for MDHHS. “I urge all Michiganders ages six months and older to get their flu shots if they have not already done so this season. It is not too late.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 9.7 million and 14 million Americans have had the flu so far this season. That’s more people infected by the flu in less than four months than people injured in motor vehicle accidents every year. Since October, 70 influenza-related hospitalizations were recorded just at McLaren Northern Michigan.

“We are seeing an increase of the flu in our area, so it’s extra important to wash your hands and stay home if you’re sick,” said Casey Baird, the Director of Quality and Infection Prevention at UP Health System-Portage.

During the 2018-2019 flu season, only 46.1% of Michiganders were vaccinated against the flu. That’s below the national rate of 49.2%.

Vaccines are crucial for people with an increased risk for complications from the flu. This includes children, adults aged 65 and older, persons who are pregnant, and persons of any age with an underlying medical condition.

The flu virus puts added stress on the body, which can worsen other medical conditions. For instance, if you have heart disease or high blood pressure, the flu can increase your blood pressure, raise your heart rate, and put you at greater risk of a heart attack or stroke. The flu virus can also make symptoms worse and trigger atrial fibrillation episodes.

You can reduce your risk of developing heart disease by participating in 30 minutes of physical activity per day, participating in low-impact sports like swimming or pickleball, and staying up-to-date with check-ups and medical care. Talk to your doctor if you’re at risk for developing heart disease to better monitor your health. Cardiac catheterization is a valuable tool in diagnosing and treating heart disease.

In the meantime, health officials recommend that anyone who is capable of receiving a flu vaccine get one to reduce the risk of contracting the virus and passing it onto vulnerable persons and hospital patients.

According to Dr. William Schaffner, a professor at Vanderbilt University and the medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, the vaccine this year is a good match for the strains currently circulating, especially influenza A H1N1.

The vaccine is tweaked by medical lab technicians every year to fight back against the constantly changing and mutating influenza virus. Infectious disease experts convene every February to determine which strains ought to be covered during the upcoming flu season and the vaccine is altered as needed. In fact, the employment of medical lab technologists and technicians is expected to grow by 13% by 2026.

Experts say that while the flu vaccine isn’t perfect, it helps to keep you protected during the bulk of the flu season. Other methods of fighting off the flu include washing your hands frequently, keeping your immune system strong by eating fruits and vegetables, getting at least eight hours of sleep, and keeping your home clean of dirt and allergens.

“Because we give the flu vaccine [at] this time of year when there are other viruses going on, people may get a vaccination [and] come down with a cold or something several days later,” said Jon Sangeorzan, the staff physician ay McLaren, “but you cannot get a clinical illness from the flu vaccine, there is really no reason not to get it and it may save lives.”

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