Utah hospital fights flu by limiting visitors
Utah's flu season has been unremarkable, so far.
But responding to reports of widespread influenza in other states, some Intermountain Healthcare hospitals have begun revising their guidelines on visitors, in some cases prohibiting children.
Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George and Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City are asking patients to keep visitors to a minimum, discouraging visits from children under the age of 14 and admitting no more than two visitors at a time.
"We are hoping the community will be supportive as we balance the desire for visitors to see loved patients with patient safety concerns," said William Cobb, infectious disease specialist for Dixie Regional.
Intermountain's flagship facility, Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, has not yet imposed hospital-wide restrictions though some departments such as intensive care routinely limit visitors. Nor have other major hospital chains.
"We have left the decision up to each hospital," said Scott Williams, Chief Medical Officer at MountainStar HCA.
A report last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control noted a significant uptick in flu hospitalizations in New York and four southern states Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Virginia.
Utah has not seen a marked increase in flu cases.
But if this season behaves like most, the flu bug will peak in January or February, said Rachelle Bolton, an epidemiologist at the state Department of Health. "It's always smart to practice safe infection control procedures, even inside the home."
Virus samples show the circulating flu strains are well-matched to this season's flu vaccine.
About 23,600 flu-related deaths happen each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.