On Thursday, Feb. 8, in light of this year’s flu season, Middlesex Hospital announced new visitor restrictions.
“Levels of influenza-like-illness across the country are now as high as we observed at the peak of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic,” said Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Anne Schuchat in a press briefing on Friday. “The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza is 10.1 percent this week.”
According to the CDC, the hospitalization rate for the flu is 59.9 per 100,000 people. The visitor restrictions have been implemented in response to the severity of the flu season, which could continue for the next few months.
In a press release distributed to local media outlets, Middlesex Hospital outlined its new policy limiting the type and quantity of visitors allowed.
“Like many other hospitals, Middlesex Hospital is seeing a steady flow of patients who have the flu or who have flu-like symptoms…” Middlesex Hospital’s Public Relations Director, Amanda Falcone, explained in an email to The Argus. “These policies are in place to protect patients, staff and guests.”
While students experiencing severe flu symptoms are highly encouraged to check into the hospital as patients, students will not be allowed to visit another patient if they exhibit flu-like symptoms such as fever, vomiting and coughing, diarrhea, body aches or headaches. Additionally, only immediate family members or a “designated support person” may visit patients in the hospital. However, this does not mean that students will be completely banned from visiting a friend who may be in the hospital.
“If a student wants to designate another student as their support person, arrangements can be made with the Hospital to do so,” Falcone wrote. “We understand that many students may not have family close by and may rely on other students to help them when they are sick. The Hospital will make sure all patients, including students, have the support they need while at Middlesex Hospital.”
Immediate family members and support people will still be subjected to the hospital’s policy regarding the quantity of visitors, which limits a patient to a maximum of two visitors at any time. While unlikely to affect any University students, the policy also states that no one under the age of 18 will be granted visitor status without special permission.
Any student experiencing severe flu symptoms should visit the Davison Health Center to receive an evaluation to determine if a hospital stay is necessary. As previously reported by The Argus, the Health Center can also provide medication to anyone who has been in close contact with an infected person to prevent further spread.
“Rest, rest, rest, drink fluids,” University Medical Director Tom McLarney said. “Give the health center a call, treat the symptoms.”