Several hospitals across the United States are taking precaution as cases of late-winter influenza continue to rise. The high number of influenza cases prompted officials to implement stricter visitor regulations.
(Photo : Rick Kimpel | Flickr)

Due to an unusual rise in cases of late-winter influenza, hospitals across some parts of the Southeastern United States have implemented stricter visitor regulations.

Illinois, Indiana and North Carolina are seeing upswing in
influenzacases. In some areas, the flu has turned more dangerous and deadlier, public health officials said.

Cases of influenza in Chicago, Illinois went from 49 in December 2015 to 326 by Feb. 27, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

In Indiana, public health department spokesperson Jennifer O'Malley said 19 people have already died from the flu since October. More than half of the deaths this season came in the past two weeks.

Indiana's flu season had begun mildly compared to last year, which had recorded 789 cases. Today, there are 127 positive influenza tests. What's alarmed officials, however, is that 84 of the 127 cases came in February alone.

"It appears that this flu season is picking up later than what we have seen in recent years, and it's too early to say if we've hit the peak or if it's yet to come," saidepidemiologist Genessa Doolittle.

The same goes in Chicago: the flu season peaked by late January, a deviation from the past trend in which cases peaked in early January.

Hospitals in both states have taken notice and are exercising caution.

At Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois, doctors in emergency rooms have observed more flu cases last month, and it appeared to increase more and more every week.

"The emergency room became very busy a couple of weeks ago," saidStephen Sokalski, the center's chief of infectious disease and epidemiology. He said most of the cases were children.

In Feb. 22, the hospital enacted restrictions that ban visitors who are younger than 18 years old, as well as visitors with flu-like symptoms.

Other hospitals in Chicago with visitor restrictions include Northwestern Memorial and Prentice Women's hospital, Presence Mercy Medical Center in Aurora, and Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin.

In North Carolina, Pardee Hospital announcedon March 5 that it will implement visitor restrictions as a response to the rising number of influenza cases. Additional restrictions include: visitors must be limited to immediate family members or clergy; and only one or two visitors are allowed inside a patient's room.

Health professionals advise the public to frequently wash their hands, stay at home when sick, and consider getting a flu shot if they have not yet been vaccinated.

In Indiana, flu shots will be available for free to county residents who are aged 6 months old and above.

Photo: Rick Kimpel | Flickr

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