MOREHEAD CITY — With flu activity on the rise throughout the region, Carteret Health Care officials announced the hospital will impose visitation restrictions beginning Wednesday to protect the health of patients and visitors.
As part of the restrictions, no children under the age of 12 should be at the hospital, including the Emergency Department, cafeteria, waiting areas and outpatient areas, unless for care. In addition, patients are limited to two visitors at any time, including in public areas, and visitors must be healthy.
Anyone who is sick or displaying flu-like symptoms, such as chills, cough, runny nose, fever, diarrhea, vomiting or respiratory symptoms in the past 24 hours, should refrain from visiting the hospital.
CHC introduced a new exception to the rules this year allowing healthy sibling visitation to the maternal child health ward. Siblings will be provided a sticker distinguishing the child as a maternal child health visitor.
“That decision was a collaborative decision with clinical teams and administration to maintain a patient-family centered care vision,” said Valerie Payne, director of infection prevention at CHC. “It also aligns a little more closely with some of the other hospitals in the region.”
To help spread the message about visitation restrictions, the hospital will place posters in high-traffic areas, such as entrances and elevators, beginning Wednesday. Nurses and physicians will also provide tear-away handouts to families and visitors to aid conversations about seasonal restrictions.
Ms. Payne said the decision to instate visitation restrictions was made after monitoring local, state and national influenza activity. She said other hospitals in the region are imposing similar restrictions.
“We decided to place visitor restrictions based on local data of flu cases, and also we monitor regional, state and national trends,” she said. “We were seeing increases over the last couple of weeks in patients with positive influenza, primarily coming through the Emergency Department, and that correlated closely with what other parts of the state are seeing.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which tracks flu activity and releases a weekly report during flu season, activity is high nationwide, as well, and is expected to continue for several weeks. Although activity is increasing, Ms. Payne said it is still too early in the season to predict how severe it will be overall.
“I think it’s probably too early to tell how the season is going to shape up,” she said. “Something that is different this year compared to last year is a higher number of influenza B cases are being observed, and we are starting to see influenza A cases come in. Usually influenza A is the dominating strain, so it’s a little unusual that we’re seeing both.”
Though there are some minor differences between the two strains, Ms. Payne said symptoms and treatment are the same.
Ms. Payne said the hospital puts visitation restrictions in place to protect the health of visitors and patients alike. She said young children and people in the hospital, who are often immunocompromised, are vulnerable populations at high risk of getting sick, so the hospital aims to limit the spread of illness as much as possible during flu season.
“Influenza in particular can be contagious up to a day before a person shows any signs and symptoms, so we want to limit minor visitation to protect our patients, as well,” Ms. Payne said.
According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, 10 people have died of the flu during the 2019-20 season, so far. Of those who died, nine were aged 65 and older, and one was in the 25-49 years age range.
Ms. Payne’s biggest piece of advice for those who want to avoid the flu is to get a flu shot.
“One of the things that people will often say about a flu shot is, ‘I’ve gotten the flu even in years I’ve gotten the flu shot,’” she said. “The point of getting the flu shot is to reduce your risk of getting the flu, and also to reduce the risk of severe illness if you do get the flu. Those that have been vaccinated are less likely to be hospitalized as a result of their illness.”
Ms. Payne said if you happen to catch the flu or any other sickness, unless symptoms are severe, stay home as much as possible to help limit the further spread of disease.
“It’s good to stay home, stay hydrated, take care of yourself and reach out to your primary care physician if medical services are necessary,” she said.
Contact Elise Clouser at firstname.lastname@example.org; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.