ANN ARBOR, Mich. — With influenza activity now widespread across Michigan, the University of Michigan Health System is taking steps to prevent the spread of flu to its patients, who include many people from around the state who have conditions that make them especially vulnerable to dangerous complications from flu.
Already this flu season, the deaths of four adults hospitalized at U-M have been linked to flu. Many more patients with suspected or confirmed flu have sought care from U-M clinics, emergency departments and hospitals — including some who have required treatment in intensive care units.
For the safety of patients and staff, UMHS is now observing a Healthy Visitor Policy, which urges those with a cold, cough or fever not to visit patients at our hospitals or accompany them to visits.
Of course, individuals who need medical attention for flu-like symptoms should continue to seek care from UMHS hospitals and clinics.
Flu-like symptoms – fever, along with a cough, sore throat, headache and/or body aches – can come on suddenly and last days. Even before an infected person has symptoms, he or she can spread the flu virus to others. (Read more on flu symptoms here)
Pregnant women are at special risk from the flu, and should both get vaccinated and stay away from people with flu-like symptoms.
To reduce the risk to uninfected patients, UMHS has implemented the following visitor restrictions and other safeguards:
- If at all possible, people with flu-like symptoms should not visit loved ones who are hospitalized at U-M’s University Hospital, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, the U-M Cardiovascular Center and the Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital.
- People with flu-like symptoms should not come to their loved ones’ outpatient appointments at U-M clinics and health centers, or come with them to the emergency room, if at all possible.
- Anyone with flu-like symptoms – whether they are a patient or a visitor who absolutely needs to come – must wear a mask while they are at any U-M Health System facility. Masks are available at entrance desks.
- No children under the age of 12 will be allowed to visit any U-M hospital patient who has suspected or confirmed flu, or other conditions that cause staff to place them in a kind of protective status called “droplet precautions.”
- Exceptions to these restrictions can be granted by the patient’s care team.
- UMHS staff who have contact with patients must either have been vaccinated against the flu, or must wear a mask when they are with patients. If they develop symptoms, staff members must stay home until 24 hours after their fever is gone (without the use of fever-reducing medications) and they have a controlled cough and respiratory symptoms.
There’s still plenty of flu vaccine available, and UMHS patients may contact their clinics and offices to arrange for vaccination. Washtenaw County residents can be vaccinated at the county Public Health department for $25, and can provide a receipt for private insurance or bill Medicaid (but not Medicare Part B). Vaccination is also available from retail stores, pharmacies, and many primary care health providers.
Although getting vaccinated does not guarantee a person won’t get the flu, it greatly reduces the chances.
For more information on flu-related topics at UMHS, visit www.uofmhealth.org/flu
For more information on flu and the flu vaccine, including a “Flu Vaccine Finder” that can help you find a vaccination location near you, visit www.flu.gov .