CHARLOTTE, N.C. - For the first time in two years, beginning Friday, children under 13 won't be able to walk into more than 40 area hospitals to visit people there.
The restrictions at dozens of facilities come in the wake of a spike in flu cases in North Carolina.
Doctors told Channel 9 that last flu season was mild but not this year, and the flu is hitting later than usual.
"Over the last two weeks we've seen a pretty dramatic rise," said Dr. Sid Fletcher, senior vice president for medical affairs at Novant Health..
Dr. Katie Passaretti, who heads infection prevention at Carolina’s healthcare system, said the flu season got a late start, possibly due to warmer weather, but it's here now.
"Once it started kicking in we've definitely seen an increase. Our emergency rooms and inpatients, both sides are seeing more patients," she said.
The flu is making a lot of people sick in late February’s unusually warm weather.
Channel 9 received flu numbers from the last few weeks at all Carolina’s healthcare system hospitals.
The numbers climbed from 228 people seen with flu-like illness the week of Feb. 4 to 329 the next week and 359 so far the week of Feb. 18.
At Novant Hospitals, positive flu tests jumped 46 percent last week.
Total cases jumped from 92 to 311 over a two week period this month.
Seventeen flu-related deaths have been reported in South Carolina since October. There were 44 deaths reported in North Carolina.
The rapid rise in flu cases has pushed all area hospitals to ban anyone under 13 from visiting patients.
"Kids are a little bit messier, and are more likely to kind of have some runny noses," Passaretti said.
She said children touching counters, elevators or other hard surfaces can leave germs behind, which could expose patients to flu.
Signs explaining the visitation restrictions will be posted in hospital lobbies.
Fletcher gave another reason for the restrictions. He said children often don't act like they're sick, or even know it.
"They may not have the symptoms of cough, fever, those sorts of things, and yet, they may be able to be contagious," he said.
Exceptions to the visitation rule will be made for children visiting critically ill family members.
Older teens and adults are allowed to visit, but doctors urged anyone of any age who's sick not visit hospital patients, and to stay home from work as well.
Hospitals get new information on flu cases once a week.
They’ll reevaluate the visitation policy for children, depending on what those weekly numbers show.
More than 40 hospitals are included in the visitation restrictions policy.
Carolinas Healthcare System hospitals impacted:
- 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
Novant Health hospitals impacted:
- Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center
- Novant Health Charlotte Orthopedic Hospital
- Novant Health Clemmons Medical Center
- Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center
- Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital
- Novant Health Huntersville Medical Center
- Novant Health Kernersville Medical Center
- Novant Health Matthews Medical Center
- Novant Health Medical Park Hospital
- Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center
- Novant Health Rowan Medical Center
- Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center
- Novant Health UVA Health System Prince William Medical Center
- Novant Health UVA Health System Haymarket Medical Center
- Novant Health UVA Health System Culpeper Medical Center
Wake Forest Baptist inpatient locations impacted:
- Davie County
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