CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- We have still have weeks before the usual peak of the flu season, and the illness continues to hit hard.
Changes at local hospitals are reflecting the season. Officials at Carolina Healthcare System facilities are restricting visitors because of widespread flu.
Visitors under the age of 12 are not allowed into in-patient hospitals. Under normal circumstances, those restriction only apply to the neo-natal and pediatric Intensive Care Units. CHS is also asking anyone with flu like symptoms not to visit patients.
“Children will often be able to spread the flu before they have symptoms and they’re also a little less able to contain their runny nose,” said Dr. Katie Passaretti of Carolinas HealthCare System.
Kristina Mercer brought her two boys to the hospital to visit their grandmother before the restrictions went into place.
“Just feel better and we can’t wait till you get home,” she said of bringing her boys to visit their grandmother.
The other major concern is a possible shortage of Tamiflu, a drug that shortens flu symptoms anywhere from one to three days.
The prescription should be taken as soon as symptoms start. Doctors across the nation say many patients are asking for it.
Yet, some flu patients, even if they go doctor as those symptoms first come on, may not get a prescription.
Doctors say they want to be sure to have enough supplies for people who are most at risk like the elderly, people with chronic conditions and patients most at risk for being hospitalized.
Doctors in the Charlotte area are not reporting any Tamiflu shortages just yet. However, other areas across the county, like Texas are reporting it's becoming harder and harder to find.
'We don't know how long the flu season will continue'
(By: Reporter Richard DeVayne)
Jennifer Hrischenko has three school age children and she said that she knows the importance of her entire family getting their annual flu shots. Her daughters are healthy and free of the flu while a number of her youngest daughter's classmates have been affected.
"In fact, someone made the comment that one of the grades was just wiped out with the flu. Very, very few students," she said.
Hrischenko said that she was one of those who never got a vaccination until the first year she came down with the nasty bug.
Hrischenko said now even her husband gets his annually because of the children. She added that he has also had a number of co-workers who have gotten sick because of this year's bug, which health care officials say is the worst they've seen in many years.
"We have seen a lot of patients this flu season. It started early back in November and it’s continuing," said Dr. Charles Bregier with Presbyterian Hospital Urgent Care. "We don't know how long the flu season will continue. It might end in a week. It might continue until the spring, so if you haven't had a flu shot, please get one."
Dr. Bregier said that while supplies of drugs like Tamiflu, which is prescribed when someone shows the early signs of influenza, were low at one point, most treatment centers and pharmacies are now well stocked.