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Hospitals restrict children under 12 from patient visits amid ‘widespread outbreak of the flu virus’

As North Carolina's flu death toll rose to 35, hospitals are buckling down on who is allowed inside to see patients.

Beginning 7 a.m. Friday, Cone Health, Novant Health, Randolph Health, Atrium Health and Wake Forest Baptist Health ask that children under the age of 12 do not visit patients at any of the medical centers affiliated with the companies.

Children under the age of 12 will, of course, still be allowed to visit medical facilities for treatment and may be allowed under special circumstances, such as to visit a dying family member.

The joint decision to enact visitor restrictions comes after hospitals report a steady rise in flu cases.

Novant Health describes the increase as a "widespread outbreak of the flu virus throughout the community" in a news release.

“We feel these restrictions are a necessary step to protecting our patients, staff and adult visitors as the reports of increasing cases of flu appear throughout the region,” said Misty Garner of Randolph Health Infection Prevention. “We will continue to monitor the situation very closely and may add additional restrictions if necessary.”

The increasing number of flu deaths are not local to one hospital or one triad area.

Last week, six flu-related deaths were reported in North Carolina from Jan. 27 to Saturday. The season's total, 35, includes all flu-related deaths from Sept. 30 to now.

“The flu virus can be extremely dangerous to people who have compromised immune systems, cancer, kidney disease and other chronic conditions,” said Novant Health Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Eric Eskioglu.

“Vaccination is still the best protection, and for people who have not yet received the influenza vaccine, it is not too late,” said Larry Givner, professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Health. “We always remind visitors and family members — regardless of their age — that they should be healthy and free from fever, cough, colds or stomach virus symptoms in order to visit patients.”

The flu season runs until May 18, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

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