Cleveland hospitals place restrictions on visitors in wake of nasty flu season

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Flu cases are rising fast in Northeast Ohio, and hundreds of cases have been so severe they've required hospitalization.

That's rare for this early in the season. Many of those cases come out of Cuyahoga County, where 312 people were hospitalized by the end of 2017.

"This seems to be a particularly harsh year," said UH Cleveland Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robyn Strosaker.

Dr. Strosaker says part of that is because of this year's flu vaccine.

"We can't always most accurately predict what strains of virus are in the vaccines, and so we're concerned that this year's vaccine may not be as effective as prior year's vaccines may have been," she said.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't take it, though. Even if you contract the flu, your symptoms will likely be less severe than they would be if you had not gotten a flu shot, and it could be the difference for keeping vulnerable populations, including young children and the elderly, out of the hospital.

However, with severe cases climbing, hospitals are wrestling with a problem--visitors. Some, including children and older people, might be at risk for becoming hospitalized themselves if they catch the disease. Others could be passing the flu onto patients and staff.

"It's always a careful balance with visitors. we want to keep our employees and keep our patients well, but at the same time we want to be mindful of the fact that if people are in our facilities with severe illnesses, we want them to have access to loved ones if at all possible," said Dr. Strosaker.

To address that, UH Parma and UH Elyria are restricting visitors under 18. Cleveland Clinic Akron General and Cleveland Clinic Medina Hospital are restricting those under 14. Most hospitals are restricting all visitors who show signs of flu-like symptoms.

Dr. Strosaker says UH is not implementing a system-wide restriction policy at this point, but she says those who are sick should stay away from others.

"Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene," she said. "So washing hands, hand sanitizer, Lysol, that sort of thing, of surfaces, really trying to stay away from people who are sick."

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