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Hospital visitation ban lifted after decrease in flu cases

Three local healthcare systems will lift visitor restrictions today in connection with a declining number of flu cases.

Rowan Medical Center-Novant Health, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Carolinas HealthCare System in late December implemented restrictions on visitors younger than 18 to prevent the spread of the flu, which has reached epidemic levels this season. All three systems will lift the ban at 8 a.m. today.

“The visitor restrictions were necessary to protect our most vulnerable hospitalized patients, but now as we see the number of influenza cases continue to decline, we are happy to invite the community back into our facilities,” said Novant’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tom Zweng.

The healthcare systems still discourage visitors exhibiting flu-like symptoms — fever cough, sore throat and a runny nose — from visiting patients.

The visitor restriction was implemented on Dec. 30 for the Wake Forest Baptist system and on Jan. 2 in the Novant system.

North Carolina’s weekly influenza summary still shows the flu at a widespread level for the week ending Jan 24. The summary shows a steady decline in influenza-like illness during the past several weeks, with a slight uptick in the most recent update. Flu-like illnesses peaked in late December, according to the summary.

The total number of laboratory-confirmed, flu-associated deaths in North Carolina since October is greatest among people older than 65, according to the summary of 111 deaths. The second highest number of deaths are ages 50 to 64. The total number of flu-related deaths peaked in early January, according to North Carolina’s summary.

In the latest data available, North Carolina reported nine total influenza-associated deaths.

Region four, which includes North Carolina, still reports widespread flu in every jurisdiction, according to the latest weekly report by the Centers for Disease Control. However, the number of positive tests is down slightly from the previous CDC report — from 21.8 percent to 14.3 percent of positive tests.

When compared to previous flu seasons, the 2014-15 year had a higher peak than either the 2013-14 year or 2012-13 year. If this year’s season follows the trend shown in the prior two years of data, the number of flu cases should steadily decline in Spring and Summer months.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246

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