CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte-area in-patient hospitals are restricting access for visitors under 12 due to the growing flu cases, Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) announced Thursday.
"The flu virus, unfortunately is very smart. It modifies itself every year so it can survive," said Dr. Catherine Passaretti, the medical director of infection prevention at Carolinas HealthCare System. "Even when the vaccine does not prevent you from getting influenza, the severity of the disease is less."
Novant Health, Cone Health, and Wake Forest Baptist Health have also implemented hospital restrictions. All hospital restrictions are effective Friday at 7 a.m.
CaroMont Health in Gastonia says they will not permit hospital visitors under 13, effective at 7 a.m. Saturday. Iredell Health System is restricting visitors under age 17 in the hospital effective Friday.
The number of influenza and influenza-like illness cases presenting to CaroMont Regional's Emergency Department has continued to climb in recent days," said Todd Davis, MD, Chief Medical Officer at CaroMont Health. "Putting visitor restrictions in place is a necessary step to ensure we protect our patients, staff and visitors, as well as reduce the risk of exposing vulnerable populations."
CHS officials ask anyone who experiences flu-like symptoms to avoid visiting patients in the hospital to avoid spreading any illness. "Symptoms include: fever, headaches/body aches/pain, cough or sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea," CHS says.
Since Oct. 1, 26 people have died from the flu in North Carolina, state officials say.
"I don't think we've peaked yet," Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said in a Thursday briefing.
There have been seven outbreaks of the flu in Mecklenburg County this year. Six of the outbreaks were at long-term care facilities and one was at Carmel Christian in Matthews, Harris said.
This year, the flu vaccine is only 39% effective according to the Mecklenburg County Health Director.
"It is a challenging year just because the vaccine is just not as effective, but at this point, we are not alarmed by what we are seeing," said Harris.
Below are CHS hospitals affected by the visitation policy:
- Carolinas Medical Center
- Levine Children’s Hospital
- Carolinas Medical Center-Mercy
- Carolinas HealthCare System NorthEast
- Carolinas HealthCare System Pineville
- Carolinas HealthCare System Union
- Carolinas HealthCare System University
- Carolinas HealthCare System Lincoln
- Carolinas HealthCare System Cleveland
- Carolinas HealthCare System Kings Mountain
- Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge
- Carolinas HealthCare System Stanly
- Carolinas HealthCare System Anson
- Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health-Charlotte
- Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health-Davidson
- Carolinas Rehabilitation-Charlotte
- Carolinas Rehabilitation-NorthEast
- Carolinas Rehabilitation-Mt. Holly
- Pineville Inpatient Rehabilitation
"Flu sufferers should rest, drink fluids and take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce minor pain or fever," CHS officials say.
Health officials recommend hand washing, using hand sanitizer, and getting the flu shot, as the best methods to avoid catching the flu. They also advise people to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.