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Duke Health is the latest Triangle hospital system to restrict visits by children

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Medical experts insist washing your hands is the time-tested method of flu prevention, right behind flu shots. One simple hand washing tip may keep you from catching the bug.
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Medical experts insist washing your hands is the time-tested method of flu prevention, right behind flu shots. One simple hand washing tip may keep you from catching the bug.

Duke University Health System will start restricting children from visiting patients in Duke hospitals and other Duke Health medical facilities, a sign that this flu season is about to peak, the organization said Monday.

Starting Tuesday, children age 12 and under will not allowed to to visit Duke Health hospitals or wards without approval from nurses and doctors, or unless there are special circumstances allowing an exemption. In previous years, Duke had restricted children under age 18.

Area hospitals impose visitation restrictions on children each year when their patient data show an increase in patients with flu-like symptoms. UNC Health Care and WakeMed Health & Hospitals announced restrictions last week.

The temporary restriction will be lifted when flu activity starts falling. Flu season runs from October through May, but typically peaks in January and February. As of Jan. 5, 16 people have died from flu-related causes in the state.

Children are restricted from health care facilities because they are more susceptible to catching and spreading the flu. Children are less likely to follow health precautions, such as hand washing and covering up coughs and sneezes, that are recommended to limit the spread of the flu.

Duke’s restrictions will be in effect at hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers and clinics in the Triangle. In addition to its flagship hospital at Duke University, Duke Health also operates Durham Regional Hospital in Durham and Duke Raleigh Hospital.

Adult guests and family visiting patients will be limited to two visitors at one time. People coming to Duke Health facilities should not be showing signs of fever, cough or other flu-like symptoms, Duke said, unless they are coming to Duke for medical care.

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John Murawski covers health care and environmental issues and has won numerous awards from the N.C. Press Association for his news coverage as well as his book reviews. He has previously worked as a journalist in South Florida, the Philadelphia area and Washington, D.C. He attended Virginia Commonwealth University and Indiana University, and has taken classes at Veracruz University (in Mexico) and the Jagiellonian University (in Poland). He can be reached at jmurawski@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8932.
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