GREENSBURG – Decatur County Memorial Hospital continues to restrict visitor access due to a high level of concern for the health of patients and staff.

This time of year is typically known as “flu season,” as influenza activity peaks between December and February, according to the Centers for Disease Control. To help combat the additional medical risk to patients, many of whom already have weakened immune systems, and staff, who are exposed to many illnesses in the course of their work, the hospital chose to put some new visitor guidelines in place.

“As of December 29, Indiana as a whole began experiencing widespread influenza activity,” said DCMH Infection Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Baltus. “To protect patients and staff, and our community as a whole, Decatur County Memorial Hospital has initiated visitor restrictions from January 8, 2019, through the remainder of the flu season.”

For the time being, no visitors under the age of 18 are permitted in the hospital unless they are a patient or the parent of a patient. Exceptions to this rule must be cleared with the nursing supervisor or charge nurse.

“We ask that visitors be limited to immediate family members, partners, or significant others,” Baltus said.

All visitors with fever, cough, or diarrhea should stay home and refrain from visiting the hospital. Additionally, anyone coming into the hospital showing flu or cold symptoms is required to wear a mask. Visitors and patients are asked to help minimize infection by coughing or sneezing into their sleeves.

All visitors seeing someone in isolation will be required to wear personal protective equipment like a sterile gown, gloves, and mask.

Hand washing is a vital step in stopping the spread of infection. All visitors and patients at DCMH are advised to wash their hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer. Hand washing should take place both before and after contact with a patient.

“We ask that the community at large, including our patients and visitors, wash their hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of the flu and other illnesses,” Baltus said.

To most effectively prevent the spread of disease, the CDC recommends washing hands with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer or disposable hand wipes are also effective ways to protect oneself from germs. With gel sanitizer, it is important to rub hand together until the gel is dry.

“Hand sanitizer is the preferred method unless otherwise indicated,” Baltus said. “Look for a sign near the patient’s door.”

Flu prevention stations have been placed throughout the hospital to help stop the spread of influenza. Each station holds equipment designed to protect against illness. Both face masks and hand sanitizer are available at the flu prevention stations.

“In the rate circumstance a visitor with influenza-like illness is permitted into the hospital, they will have to follow these rules: wear a mask at all times while in the hospital, go directly to the patient’s room, and leave the hospital when the visit is complete,” Baltus said.

DCMH released a list of everyday actions which can help prevent the spread of illnesses like the flu. The hospital recommends boosting one’s immunity to influenza by getting a flu shot.

“Each year, the flu shot is developed for that particular season’s predictions regarding influenza,” Baltus said. “Flu shots are available for free to all Decatur County residents through DCMH’s Immunization Clinic.”

The Immunization Clinic is open from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and has standard dose flue shots available with no appointment necessary. The clinic is a community benefit from the hospital’s 340B Pharmacy program. The clinic is located at 955 N. Michigan Avenue.

“You are not too late,” Baltus said. “Flu shots are available to give through March 31. Standard dose flu vaccination is for everyone 6 months and older who don’t have allergy or contraindication for administration. High dose vaccinations are only indicated and available for anyone 65 and older.”

Common sense as it may be, DCMH recommends covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue. The tissue should be thrown away immediately after use. Hands should be washed with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer often, especially after coughing or sneezing.

Another way DCMH suggests reducing the spread of illness is to avoid touching one’s eyes, nose, or mouth, as germs are easily able to spread this way. Avoiding close contact with sick people when possible helps protect from illness as well.

“If you are sick with flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities,” Baltus said, adding that the fever should be gone without the use of medication. “Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick.”

Contact: Amanda Browning 812-663-3111×7004;