Area hospitals are taking precautions to protect patients and health-care workers during flu season.
There are five confirmed flu deaths in Lexington this season and 151 confirmed flu cases, according to the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. All of the deaths were people with underlying health conditions, said Kevin Hall, communications officer for the health department.
Because of the rise in flu cases in the city, University of Kentucky Healthcare has amended its patient visitation policy, it announced Tuesday.
UK is not allowing visitors with any flu-like symptoms. The UK facilities are also allowing only two visitors inside a patient’s room at one time and no visitors under the age of 12. There is a prohibition on visitors younger than 18 for bone marrow transplant patients.
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Visitors at UK’s units may be issued masks or other protective clothing when visiting, just like at Baptist Health Lexington.
Ruth Ann Childers, Baptist Health’s spokeswoman, said the hospital is providing masks and hand sanitizer to visitors.
“I was in the emergency room the other day ... and I did see a lot of staff and visitors wearing masks,” she said. “We have seen an increased number of flu cases. It’s higher than it has been in previous years.”
Baptist Health is not banning visitors with fever and flu symptoms, but such visits are being discouraged.
“We love visitors, but the best thing for your loved ones is to not visit when you have the symptoms,” Childers said.
Flu season could get worse because of an imperfect vaccine and steady cold weather, according to a report from the New York Times.
While the flu vaccine is imperfect, health officials still strongly recommend flu shots. Vaccines can reduce overall risks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Twenty-six states have experienced high flu activity, according to the CDC. For information on how to prevent or treat the flu, visit the CDC’s website.