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A Spike in Flu Activity is Causing Restrictions for Visitors at Local Hospitals

We are entering the heart of flu season across the Tar Heel state, and it looks like this year’s version of the virus is particularly dangerous. That has caused some hospital systems to set limits on patient visitation.

The Durham VA Medical Center is the latest to add their name to the growing list of medical service providers placing restrictions on visitors during particularly heavy portions of the flu season.

Duke Medicine and the UNC Healthcare system have also placed restrictions on visitors, over the past few weeks.

In all of these cases, the restrictions are aimed at slowing the spread of influenza.

UNC Healthcare has stopped visitation from children under age 12 to any inpatient care unit.

At Duke University Health System Hospitals, children under 18 are only permitted to visit hospitals or wards when there has been prior approval and only in special circumstances. Patients at Duke Hospitals may also receive no more than two adult visitors at one time.

The Durham VA has also restricted visitation for anyone under the age of 18.

Anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms is also being restricted from visiting patients at all of the aforementioned healthcare facilities.

And if you are experiencing symptoms associated with influenza – including coughing, sneezing, runny nose, or a fever – you are being encouraged to contact a primary care doctor for an over-the-phone evaluation before visiting the hospital for treatment.

The flu has been particularly dangerous across North Carolina recently. During the 2013 – 2014 flu season, 107 North Carolinians died from flu-related illnesses, according to state health officials.

This season is shaping up to be just as dangerous. The latest numbers from the State Department of Health and Human Services report there have been 17 flu-related deaths since early October. That includes a spike in the last week of reporting with nine deaths the week ending December 27.

The flu vaccine has also been a major topic of debate this year, because the main strand of influenza was not covered by the shot.

You can still take measures to protect yourself from the flu. Doctors are still encouraging getting the flu shot, if you have not. While it does not guarantee you will not come down with the virus, it does offer a higher level of protection than avoiding the shot. Officials are also encouraging you to increase hand washing with soap and warm water. And if you do feel that you are developing symptoms of the flu, you are encouraged to limit contact with the general public, rest, remain hydrated, and contact your primary care physician.

UNC Hillsborough Hospital Now Open for Patients

HILLSBOROUGH – After breaking ground more than two years ago, UNC’s newest hospital in Hillsborough is open for patients.

The Hillsborough UNC hospital’s medical office opened July 1; the complete facility is still two years from completion.

Vice president of facilities planning and development for UNC Health Care, Ray Lafrenaye, says the 60,000 square foot building holds a number of different departments.

“Some of the clinics and services that are in the building are hematology, medical oncology, laboratory services, radiology, urology, GI medicine, dermatology and skin cancer, pelvic health, OB/GYN and surgical oncology,” Lafrenaye says.

Lafrenaye says the UNC Hillsborough hospital is an extension of the main campus hospital, built to transfer the high volume of patients to another treatment location.

“Right now, on the main campus, we’re at 90 percent, 95 percent capacity, running most of the time,” Lafrenaye says.

The main campus’s high volume is due largely to UNC being a state hospital, thus taking patients from all over the state.

Lafrenaye says the hospital itself should be finished on July 2015. It will be 256,000 square feet and will hold 68 patient beds.