Carolinas Healthcare System has restricted its visitation policy in all its in-patient care facilities in the greater Charlotte area in response to heightened risk of influenza.
Visitations by children younger than 12 years of age is restricted entry to all in-patient hospitals, while previously the restriction had only applied to neonatal and pediatric intensive care units.
“We had been monitoring the flu situation for a while,” said Kevin McCarthy, communications staff member with Carolina HealthCare System. “And because it had started so quickly and we were starting to see so many cases a lot earlier than we usually do, we felt it was an appropriate step to take.”
In order to hinder the spread of flu further, CHS is also requesting that anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms not to visit anyone in the hospital.
Those symptoms are headache, body ache, cough, sore throat, fever, stuffy or runny nose, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The CHS system is seeing a dramatic rise in cases of flu-like patients at the emergency room. Comparing the same week in December 2011 with 2012, the number of emergency patients experiencing flu-like symptoms rose from 371 to 1,023.
Considering statistics like these led the visitation policy to exclude 12-year-olds and younger children specifically, and if for some extraordinary circumstance, a visitor with flu symptoms needs to visit the hospital, the visitor will be asked to wear a surgical mask.
“The reason why we restrict children under 12 is because they are easy carriers of disease and bacteria and illnesses,” McCarthy explained. “Because the fact that they go to schools and they’re with a lot of kids in close quarters and they can easily pick up those illnesses and transfer them to other people.”
The restrictions have no set timetable, but will be viable, depending on the trends of the flu in the area.
“There’s no set timeframe on it,” McCarthy said. “We’re going to continue to monitor the cases that we’re seeing and look at the statewide statistics and we will constantly review what those look like and make decisions going forward based on what we’re seeing.”
CHS recommends that residents reduce their chances of contracting the flu by frequent hand washing with soap or hand sanitizer, and avoiding contact with one’s face, because many flu cases are contracted by picking up the virus with the hands and transferring it to the nose, eyes, or mouth.
Also, it’s not too late to get a flu shot, which takes two weeks to reach full strength, but McCarthy said that since the flu can last into March or April, a flu shot is still a good idea.
For more information, visit carolinashealthcare.org.