Flu prompts local hospitals to ban children from visiting

WASHINGTON — The flu has reached such epidemic levels this season that two local hospitals won’t allow children to visit its facilities.

Specifically, the hospitals are restricting visitors and hospital volunteers under 18.

The Novant Health System says the restrictions are in place to protect hospital patients from the flu. Exceptions are being made for children visiting dying family members. In these instances, parents should work with their nurses to make arrangements. However, people who are seeking treatment at hospitals are not subject to the restriction.

Adults who are experiencing runny noses, sore throats, fevers or coughs are also encouraged not to visit patients being treated at Novant Health facilities, according to a news release.

“The flu virus can be extremely dangerous to people who have compromised immune systems, cancer, kidney disease and other chronic conditions,” Tom Zweng, chief medical officer for Novant Health, says in a statement. “In order to protect our patients, we are asking members of the public who are younger than 18 years old or who may be sick with the influenza virus to not visit us at this time.”

The Novant system has two hospitals in northern Virginia: Novant Health Haymarket Medical Center in Haymarket and Novant Health Prince William Medical Center in Manassas.

The flu epidemic hit earlier than usual, the Centers for Disease Control says. A Loudoun County fifth-grader has died from flu-related complications.

The restrictions were put in place 8 a.m., Jan. 2. The Novant system will re-evaluate the restrictions on a weekly basis.

All visitors to Novant Health hospitals should properly disinfect their hands by washing with soap and water or using sanitizing gel when entering and leaving the facilities in order to prevent the spread of the flu virus.

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