Duke University Health System hospitals, clinics and emergency care centers have been restricting visitor access since Dec. 30 to curb flu outbreak.

Until the risk of transmission diminishes within the hospital systems, only immediate family or caregivers above the age of 18 with no flu-like symptoms can visit patients. In addition, only two visitors may see a patient at one time and patients with fevers, coughs or other potential flu symptoms will likely remain physically segregated from others.

The temporary restrictive measures have been used during past flu seasons to limit the rate of transmission within the hospital system, said Duke Regional Hospital Interim President Katie Galbraith.

“This is very similar to what we’ve done in the past,” Galbraith said. “It’s really about making sure that we’re able to protect our patients and their loved ones.”

The measures have been supported by Durham health officials such as Susan Thompson, communicable disease program manager for the Durham County Department of Public Health.

“The measures that the hospital takes are to prevent the spread of disease within their facility, which makes sense,” Thompson said. “Speaking for Duke, they made it mandatory that all their staff be vaccinated, which is the best thing anyone can do.”

The restrictions will remain until the number of reported cases of advanced flu symptoms dwindles, especially in the Intensive Care Unit, said Cameron Wolfe, a physician in the infectious diseases division.

“We have so far detected no cases of ‘nosocomia’ influenza—the term used when someone gets sick in the hospital from an illness they did not come to us with,” Wolfe said. “That is obviously extremely pleasing.”

Although flu levels have been similar to those in past years, Wolfe has seen a greater effect on populations that are normally resistant.

“There’s been a disproportionate impact on folks in their ‘middle ages,’ i.e. 20 to 50, rather than the usual elderly groups that we see in a normal flu season,” Wolfe said.

Visitors to Duke Regional Hospital have been cooperative with the new restrictions in the face of this year’s flu outbreak.

“Everyone has been very receptive to this restriction,” Galbraith said. “We want to do everything we can to limit the transmission of disease.”