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Fewer getting flu in Illinois, but it remains widespread

Published: Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 10:03 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — STREATOR — In another sign that the influenza epidemic is ebbing, St. Mary’s Hospital in Streator on Thursday lifted visitor restrictions that took effect Jan. 15.

But Central Illinoisans are reminded to continue to take steps to reduce their risk of influenza and to stay home when they’re sick.

That’s because flu in Illinois remains widespread, Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported. From the start of flu season through Feb. 2, 608 people had been admitted to Illinois hospital intensive care units for influenza and 84 of those people had died, according to IDPH.

But, so far, the peak for this year’s flu season was in early January. The decline in numbers since then was reflected in St. Mary’s announcement that the hospital was ending visitor restrictions because of a decrease in patients with influenza and influenza-like symptoms. Restrictions included no visitors less than 18 years old and no more than two visitors per patient at one time.

Two weeks ago, the following hospitals lifted their visitor restrictions because of the drop in flu prevalence: OSF St. Joseph Medical Center, Bloomington; Advocate BroMenn Medical Center, Normal; OSF Saint James-John W. Albrecht Medical Center, Pontiac; and Advocate Eureka Hospital, Eureka.

Betty Oltman, St. Mary’s coordinator of infection control and colleague health, echoed on Thursday the pleas of medical professionals at all the hospitals, discouraging anyone with respiratory symptoms from visiting the hospital and asking visitors to wash their hands or use an antiseptic hand gel when entering and leaving the hospital.

Central Illinoisans may reduce their risk of spreading influenza by getting a flu shot, coughing and sneezing into their sleeves and washing their hands frequently and thoroughly.

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