Flu restrictions grow as NC deaths rise
Posted December 30, 2014
Updated January 16, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Eight people have died in North Carolina from the flu so far this season, and more hospitals are restricting visitors to limit the spread of the virus.
According to information from the state Department of Health and Human Services, two flu-related deaths were reported in the week ending Dec. 20, and a previously unreported death from the week ending Dec. 13 was added to the state's statistics.
All three of the recent deaths were adults, but no other information about them was released.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said North Carolina is one of the most active states for the flu in the nation. Thirty-six states have reported widespread cases of the flu, meaning flu cases have been confirmed in more than half of a state.
More than 1,700 people have been hospitalized this winter across the country for the flu, with sufferers over age 65 requiring hospitalization the most. Nationwide, 15 children have died from the flu.
All Duke University Health System hospitals and outpatient centers on Tuesday began restricting visitors to immediate family or caregivers of patients who are at least 18 years old and aren't exhibiting fever, cough or other flu-like symptoms.
UNC Health Care, Cape Fear Valley Health System and the Fayetteville Veterans Administration Medical Center also have barred young visitors in recent weeks in response to the flu. WakeMed has limited young visitors in some areas of its hospitals since September because of various respiratory illnesses.
Urgent care centers across the Triangle have been packed in recent weeks with patients exhibiting flu-like symptoms. For example, Rex Hospital officials say nearly 300 confirmed flu cases have come through their four Rex Express Care clinics in December, which is twice as many as last year.
Rex sent an extra physician to its Knightdale clinic to handle the overload, but some patients still waited up to two hours Wednesday for treatment.
Flu shots are especially encouraged for populations most at risk from serious illness, including young children, the elderly or those with chronic health conditions.
Flu vaccine effectiveness tends to vary from year to year, and officials have said a strain of the virus mutated this year, which limits the vaccine's effectiveness.
The flu season runs from October to May. Last season, 107 people in North Carolina died from influenza.