CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Health systems across North Carolina, including Charlotte's largest health care providers, will now limit visitors in hospitals due to the widespread prevalence of respiratory viruses, including RSV and flu.
“We’re seeing flu very early this year,” vice president and enterprise chief epidemiologist at Atrium Health Dr. Katie Passaretti said.
The new policy, which restricts children 12 and under from visiting hospitalized patients, took effect at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16.
“The burden of infection in children is very high right now, so we’re protecting them by keeping them out of a setting where there are other sick people and also protecting the patients that are in our hospital from being exposed," Passaretti said.
The following hospitals and health care providers in North Carolina are implementing the visitor restriction:
Masks are still required for all visitors. Individuals 13 and over who are experiencing flu-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, sore throat, fever or cough should not visit patients being treated at area hospitals. People who are seeking treatment for those symptoms are not subject to the restriction.
Children may be permitted to visit hospitalized patients under special circumstances, such as dying family members. Parents should work with their care team to make arrangements for those visits.
Health officials are reminding everyone to take measures known to limit the spread of respiratory viruses, including staying home when sick, hand washing and being vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19.
Doctors are warning during the holidays, cases of infections like RSV could likely continue to spike.
“The holidays tend to be an opportunity for the viruses to ramp up their activity," Juan Dumois, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, said.
Dumois explained that although most cases of RSV are like a cold, that isn't the case for everyone, especially young children.
“Babies, especially those under 6 months old, they may get so much inflammation going down toward their lungs that they can't get enough oxygen and they end up in the hospital to get oxygen for a few days," he said.
Hospitals are already feeling the strain.
“Hospitals are very busy right now and specifically pediatric hospitals,” Passaretti said.
Experts are asking for you to take precautions to help ease the burden on health care workers.
“Make sure you’re using the right care for your medical needs, encourage virtual visits where it makes sense, urgent cares and primary care offices, and save those emergency room visits for severe symptoms," Passaretti said.
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