Spike in flu limits patient visits at Duke
Patient visits to Duke University hospitals are being restricted as the number of flu cases in Durham and other parts of the Triangle increases, Duke health system officials said this week.
The new rules, which began Monday, mean that visitors to Duke hospitals and ambulatory surgery patients will be limited to immediate family or designated caregivers 18 and older. Visitors must not have a fever, cough or other flu-like symptoms.
Dr. Arlene C. Sena, medical director at the Durham County Department of Public Health, said seven cases of flu in Durham have been identified at the state lab, and six of those were the H1N1 virus. But she said that's not a total number of cases detected in Durham, because there is no reporting system for flu in the nation. There is, however, surveillance for flu-like illnesses, and some clinics and labs submit to the state lab for testing.
Duke's recent policies are in response to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's Health Alert Network issued Dec. 24 which reports an increase in severe illnesses from H1N1 influenza among young and middle-aged adults in the United States.
Sena said that the Durham flu cases reflect what is being seen in the rest of the nation - most are Type A and H1N1. She said that strain is covered in this year's flu shots.
Duke said the restrictions are part of "a multi-step approach to protect patients and prevent the spread of influenza at Duke University Hospital, Duke Regional and Duke Raleigh hospitals, as well as the Duke Ambulatory Surgical Center and the James W. Davis Ambulatory Surgical Center."
Temporary initiatives include:
- Patients may have no more than two adult visitors at a time.
- Children under 18 are not allowed to visit hospitals or wards without prior approval from health-care providers, and only for special circumstances.
- Visitors are urged to wash their hands often, including when they enter and leave the building. Foam dispensers are available throughout the buildings and are effective against the flu virus.
- Emergency rooms, urgent care centers and clinics will separate potential flu patients if facility designs allow.
- Restrictions are temporary and will be reviewed as the state's flu rate falls.
Durham health department officials said Tuesday that anyone who develops a flu-like illness - a fever above 100 degrees and a cough or sore throat - should consider seeking care from their primary-care doctor for evaluation and possible antiviral therapies.
They said the best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated.
The Durham County Department of Public Health offers flu shots and nasal mist in its immunization clinic. Clinic hours are 8:30 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 919-560-7608.