Some Michigan hospitals change visitor policy in face of 'dramatic increase' of flu

Jan 10, 2014

An increase of cases of the flu in Michigan is prompting some hospitals to limit who can visit sick patients. They hope it’ll help prevent the spread of the flu.

University of Michigan’s hospitals aren’t letting kids younger than 12 visit the most vulnerable patients.

At Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo, there are similar restrictions, along with the number of visitors, or in some units, only immediate family members.

Dr. David Davenport is the medical director of  infection prevention and control at Borgess.

“We sometimes have some critically ill or terminally ill patients, or other unique situations, and we certainly don’t limit access to those people,” Davenport said. “We have exceptions that come into play from time to time. But we’re trying to be a lot more thoughtful about just unrestricted traffic through the hospital.”

“We’re basically taking a proactive stance that we are in the midst of a dramatic increase in influenza and we’re trying to make Borgess safer.”

At least a dozen Michigan hospitals Michigan Radio contacted for this story say they are urging those exhibiting flu-like symptoms not to visit patients. If they must visit, most hospitals say they’re offering face masks.

But Davenport says it’s important that people who are sick head to their own doctors.

“We do have anti-viral drugs that can treat your illness and not all flu is benign – some is serious and as we’ve mentioned, is life-threatening,” he said.

Michigan’s Department of Community Health reports this year’s flu cases seem to be hitting younger and healthy middle-aged adults harder than usual. There have been at least six deaths associated with this season’s flu.