As flu spreads in metro Detroit and nationwide, young visitors not as welcome in hospitals

Saturday, January 13, 2018
By Paul Martin

Bill Laitner
Detroit Free Press
Jan. 12, 2018

Influenza cases are raging nationwide, federal authorities say 20 children have died from the flu and 7% of senior deaths last month are blamed on this year’s virulent strain.

All of that prompted metro Detroit’s Beaumont hospital chain to take an unusual step Friday afternoon: banning visits from children under 13 until the flu season subsides.

“We apologize for the inconvenience,” said a news release from Beaumont Health System, which operates eight major hospitals in southeast Michigan.

“All Beaumont Health hospitals are experiencing high volumes of patients with respiratory viral illnesses, predominantly influenza,” the release said.

“For the safety of our patients and staff, visitation by children under 13 years of age is limited to extraordinary circumstances, such as severe illness of a parent or sibling, or end-of-life situation.”

Even if children are not obviously sick, they shouldn’t visit a hospital because they could be carriers of the influenza virus, said Dr. Christopher Carpenter, section head of infectious diseases at Royal Oak-Beaumont Hospital.

“You’re coming into a place where people are already ill, and they could end up in worse shape if they also get the flu,” Carpenter said. Children easily pass around the flu and other viruses at day-care centers and schools, causing kids to be a key “vector” for spreading the germs, he said.

A state health official said other hospitals were likely to follow suit. At metro Detroit’s Henry Ford Health System, “we have one visitor restriction in place right now” — children 12 and under are forbidden to enter the intensive care unit for newborns, said Brenda Craig, media relations director for the Ford system, which operates six major hospitals in Michigan.

Michigan is one of 46 states with widespread infestations of influenza, although the state remains one notch down from being in the nation’s highest prevalence category, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Symptoms of flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, chills and fatigue; but a few patients may suffer vomiting and diarrhea, according to the CDC.

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