DANVILLE — Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System is restricting visitors because six patients at the hospital have influenza symptoms, according to a news release the facility sent Monday.
Although cases of flu and flu-like symptoms are on the decline across Illinois, according to weekly reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the VA is not taking chances.
VA spokeman Doug Shouse said the six cases came up within the last couple of days, and VA officials are not taking the illnesses lightly and want to ensure that it doesn't spread. He said the restrictions can be an inconvenience, but they are an effort to minimize the risk of additional veterans contracting the flu. He said the facility still has flu vaccines available.
According to the CDC website, the flu season is winding down across the country, but it's still circulating in parts, so the CDC urges high-risk people to seek care promptly in the event of flu-like symptoms. Vaccination is also recommended for institutional outbreaks, according to the site.
Shouse said the main concern is for the veterans — not only the patients staying at the facility, but also those who are coming and going.
"We feel it's important, and hopefully it will only be two to three days," he said, referring to the restrictions.
He said the facility will look at the situation again in a few days, and if it has improved, the restrictions will be lifted.
The facility has implemented the following restrictions:
— Anyone with a cough, congestion, runny nose or fever should not visit until they have not had symptoms for 24 hours.
— Those who must visit should ask a staff member for a protection mask to wear during the visit.
— Anyone inside the facility should wash hands with soap and water or use hand gel frequently to stop the spread of germs.
— No visitors younger than 18 years old will be permitted.
The VA and other medical facilities in East Central Illinois had implemented similar visitor restrictions because of the flu earlier this year, but eventually lifted them as cases and symptoms diminished.
Illinois reported widespread flu activity from early December to early February, regional activity through early March, and only local activity through the end of last week, according to the CDC.