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Hospitals lift restrictions on young visitors

Posted December 22, 2009

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— A day after WakeMed began allowing visitors under age 18 back into patient areas at its hospitals and clinics, Rex Healthcare and the Duke University Health System followed suit on Tuesday.

A number of hospital systems across the region restricted patient access in October, fearing children and teens could spread the H1N1 flu virus.

Because of declining numbers of new H1N1 cases in recent weeks, the hospitals are rescinding the restrictions.

In the first week of the 2009-10 flu season, which starts in mid-October in North Carolina, 1,465 people reported flu-like symptoms statewide, which accounted for more than 5 percent of patients seen in the reporting hospitals, clinics and physician offices, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. Last week, 382 people, or 1.4 percent of patients, reported flu-like symptoms.

State Epidemiologist Megan Davies said pandemics like H1N1 usually come in three waves, and the U.S. has seen only two waves of the virus since last spring. She said the lull before the potential third wave offers an opportunity for people to get immunized against H1N1.

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