An increased number of flu cases has forced Windsor Regional Hospital to implement visitation restrictions not seen since the SARS outbreak in 2003.
So far this flu season, the Windsor-Essex health unit has confirmed 122 cases of influenza. That's twice as many as reported last season.
In an effort to prevent an influenza outbreak, Windsor Regional Hospital is enforcing new rules in higher-risk areas:
- All visitors must wear masks in the oncology centre.
- The hospital is also limiting visitors in the birthing centres, respiratory care unit and pediatric areas.
- No child aged 12 or younger will be allowed to visit hospitals.
- Staff members who do not get a flu shot must wear masks when interacting with patients.
Hospital CEO David Musyj hasn't seen so many people affected by the same illness since the SARS outbreak.
"To have these types of numbers this early in an influenza year is not common and is very troubling," he said.
So far, more than 95 per cent of the patients admitted to hospital with the flu have had the H1N1 strain.
Musjy said getting the flu shot is the most effective defence.
Vaccine supply low
Shots have been difficult to come by lately.
Pharmacies in Windsor are running low on flu vaccines.
"We had to turn away about 20-some odd people," Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist Carmen Novosel said.
She simply ran out of the vaccine at her drug store at Dougall Avenue and Cabana Road. Two more shipments are en route. It's enough to vaccinate an additional 60 people.
"We were anticipating a level of influx but not to the level we saw this weekend," Novosel said.
Ali Asfour got the flu shot for the first time this.
"I've been getting sick the last month, a couple of times. So I think it's a good time to get it and hopefully I wont get the flu soon," Asfour said.
Pharmacies say that with twice as many confirmed flu cases this season, and up to as many as five flu-related deaths in Windsor-Essex so far this season, more people are motivated to roll up their sleeves and get a shot.
"For some of those people that were sitting on the fence, it's greater public awareness and increase flu cases being reported we are seeing more people coming in for their flu shots," said Gary Willard of Zieter Pharmacy.
In the last week of 2013, there were 16 new cases of the flu confirmed and one death under investigation.
In Alberta, 10 people between the ages of 18 and 64 have died from the flu, Alberta health officials said Monday.
Of the 300 people now in hospital in that province, 40 are in the intensive care unit.
The increase in flu cases has also forced Windsor's hospitals to enact new restrictions to prevent the spread of flu.
Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare is urging people not to come and visit loved ones if they're experiencing flu-like symptoms.
At Windsor Regional, visitors are being limited in the pediatric areas, birthing centres and respiratory care unit.
Anyone visiting cancer patients must wear a mask.