Flu season is always a busy time for the University of Chicago Medicine. According to an e-mail forwarded to The Maroon by John Easton, a spokesperson for the University of Chicago Medicine, this flu season has been a particularly chaotic one.
The e-mail was written by Allison Bartlett, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Pritzker School of Medicine. According to Bartlett, this flu season has been one of the busiest in years. “Each week since December 24, between 115–150 people have tested positive for the flu [at UChicago Medicine]—more than six times what we saw last year,” Bartlett wrote.
She also voiced concern over the greater number of flu-related hospitalizations and pediatric deaths this year.
To tackle this particularly bad flu season, the medical center ordered more than 30,000 vaccines as soon as the flu vaccine was ready to be delivered to hospitals. Bartlett believes it is better to have leftover vaccines after the flu season than to run out. She does not have an exact answer for how many vaccines have been used so far, except that it has been “a lot.”
Along with ordering a plethora of vaccines, UChicago Medicine is prohibiting children under 12 years of age from visiting inpatients because they can spread the flu without outwardly showing any symptoms. Visitors showing any respiratory symptoms of the flu are also prohibited from visiting patients. “We ask everyone visiting the clinic or [emergency department] with these symptoms to put on a mask when they enter the building. In addition, we just recently instituted a policy for screening employees who might have the flu (based on having a fever or cough),” Bartlett wrote.
She also gave some tips for college students to help lower the impact of flu: “Wash your hands frequently! Practice good respiratory etiquette: cough into your elbow, use a tissue, and throw it away after use.”