RALEIGH: Number of flu-related deaths climbs to 13 - WNCN: News, Weather

UNC, Rex to restrict visitor access as flu deaths climb to 13

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DHHS says the flu vaccination is the most effective treatment against the flu. DHHS says the flu vaccination is the most effective treatment against the flu.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

As North Carolina health officials announced that the number of flu-related deaths has grown to 13, Rex Healthcare and UNC Hospitals will begin restricting all visitors with respiratory symptoms from visiting patients.

The Department of Health and Human Services is attributing 13 deaths in the state to influenza. More startling, health officials say is that all but one person was younger than age 65. Seven were between 25 and 49; five were between 50 and 64.

"It's a reminder that, although we know the very young and the very old are highly susceptible to the flu, flu can be dangerous for anyone," Dr. Zach Moore with the North Carolina Division of Public Health said.

Five people died in the week from Dec. 22 to Dec. 28, 2013.

Because the state is experiencing an early and active flu season, UNC Hospitals and Rex Healthcare announced Thursday that all visitors with respiratory symptoms will be prohibited from visiting patients.

Beginning Jan. 6, all children younger than 12 years of age will be prohibited from visiting patients in the Rex Special Care Nursery. At the N.C. Children's and N.C. Cancer hospitals in Chapel Hill, children under 12 will not be allowed.

"Our numbers show an increasing amount of cases in the last three to four weeks and we've not yet peaked here yet in North Carolina, or probably, the United States," UNC Hospitals Infectious Disease physician David J. Weber said.

More than 100 patients have tested positive for influenza and three patients have died from the flu at UNC Hospitals.

On Monday, Duke University Health Systems announced that it would begin restricting patient visitors because of the rising number of flu cases. Duke began restricting patient visitors to immediate family or designated caregivers age 18 or older who have no flu-like symptoms such as fever or cough.

Flu season typically peaks during January and February. Complications can be particularly dangerous for high risk groups including infants under 2, pregnant women, and people with conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

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