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Flu update: Hospital observes healthy visitor policy to prevent spread of flu

To prevent the spread of flu, those with cold, cough or fever should not visit patients at the U-M hospitals

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – With influenza activity at peak levels in Washtenaw County, Michigan Medicine is taking steps to prevent the spread of flu to its patients, who include many people who have conditions that make them especially vulnerable to dangerous complications from flu.

For the safety of patients and staff, University of Michigan hospitals and health centers observe 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.

Flu-like symptoms – fever, along with a cough, sore throat, headache and/or body aches – can come on suddenly and last for days.

Family members and visitors will be screened for flu and asked if they have flu-like symptoms. Some visitors may be asked to wear a mask while in patient rooms.

As the nation faces its worst flu season in a decade, emergency departments are feeling the strain. For patients, this can mean longer wait times, not to mention the higher copays associated with an ED visit.

Adults and children with flu-like symptoms, but no other medical conditions should call their primary care physician before visiting an emergency department.  

When symptoms are severe – such as an extremely high fever, difficulty breathing or confusion, or if you have a high risk of serious flu complications, it is time to visit an emergency room.

Very young children, people age 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions all have a higher risk for flu complications.

Pregnant women are at special risk from the flu, and should both get vaccinated and stay away from people with flu-like symptoms.

It's not too late to get vaccinated

Knowing what to do when flu season hits is key and it begins with prevention.

“Get vaccinated now if you haven’t already. There are still several weeks of flu activity to come,” says Preeti Malani, M.D., chief health officer for the University of Michigan and an infectious disease expert at Michigan Medicine. “While getting vaccinated does not guarantee a person won’t get the flu, it can help make the illness less severe and prevent hospitalization.”

There’s plenty of flu vaccine available at University Health Service and U-M clinics. Vaccination is also available from retail stores, pharmacies and many primary care health providers.

The UHS, which serves current U-M students, is open daily. On Saturdays, no appointment is needed during the urgent care clinic 9 a.m.-noon.

Primary care appointments, including evening slots, are available at U-M health centers throughout Southeast Michigan.  

Starting Feb. 5, Michigan Medicine will offer evisits for adult primary care patients experiencing cough and flu-like symptoms.

Adults who see a U-M physician for primary care will be able to initiate an evisit for certain conditions by submitting a questionnaire through the patient portal, MyUofMHealth.org. In most cases, a nurse practitioner or physician assistant will respond in 24 hours or less. Cost is $25 and insurance will not be billed.

To reduce the risk of spreading the flu to uninfected patients, Michigan Medicine has implemented the following safeguards:

  • People with flu-like symptoms should not visit hospitalized patients at U-M’s University Hospital, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, the U-M Cardiovascular Center or the Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital.
  • 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 Michigan Medicine health facility. Masks are available at entrance desks.
  • During flu season, no children under the age of 12 will be allowed to visit a Michigan Medicine patient who has been placed in a protective status called “droplet precautions.”
  • Michigan Medicine 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 flu-like symptoms, staff should not work while sick.

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