The prevalence of flu-like illnesses spiked in North Carolina last week, prompting one hospital network in the Triangle to enact new restrictions on visitors starting Friday.
Duke University Health System hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers will bar visits from most children under age 18 and require that patients receive no more than two adult visitors at a time. The temporary restrictions apply at Duke University, Duke Regional and Duke Raleigh hospitals, as well as the Duke Ambulatory and the James. E. Davis Ambulatory surgery centers.
UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill had already barred children under age 12 from visiting patient rooms and inpatient waiting rooms, effective Jan. 23, to help prevent the spread of the flu. But UNC REX Hospital hasn’t implemented new visitor restrictions, other than for kids under 12 in the birth center and neonatal intensive care unit, which was put in place when flu season started in the fall.
“We’re still not seeing lots of flu in our main hospital,” said Rex spokesman Alan Wolf. “But we are seeing more at our five REX Express Cares around Wake County.”
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WakeMed has not yet established any visitor restrictions due to the flu, either, said spokeswoman Kristin Kelly Gruman, except for a ban on visitors under 12 in the children’s hospital and the neonatal intensive care unit that have been in place for several weeks.
“We continue to discourage visitors who are sick and ask that everyone wash their hands frequently,” Gruman said.
The move by Duke is a response to a sharp increase in flu cases. The weekly survey of clinics, hospitals and health departments by the state Department of Health and Human Services found that more than 6 percent of patient visits were related to flu-like illness last week, up from about 3 percent the week before. The state’s survey had found that flu cases peaked in late December before declining, but state officials warned that a second peak was possible.
Twenty-two people in North Carolina have died from complications of the flu so far this season, 15 of them age 65 or older. The most common flu virus this season – Influenza A H3N2 – tends to affect older people more severely.