Bayhealth Places Restrictions on Child Visitors as Flu Spikes - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Bayhealth Places Restrictions on Child Visitors as Flu Spikes

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MILFORD, De. - First Beebe Healthcare. Now Bayhealth. The list of hospitals restricting child visitation grew a little more this week, amidst a growing problem with the flu in Delaware.

"It's probably the worst flu season I've seen since I've been doing this in Delaware for 24 years," said Dr. Craig Hochstein of Bayhealth Milford Memorial Hospital.

Last year, there were just 70 laboratory confirmed cases at this point in the season. This year that number has jumped to 632, an amount almost ten times as large. There have also been four deaths, linked to the flu in Delaware. The Division of Public Health told WBOC that for every laboratory confirmed case, there were likely multiple that were not reported. For that reason, the actual number of cases, is likely far larger than 632.

To try and solve this Bayhealth has now restricted all people below 12-years old from visiting patients. They have also asked those showing flu symptoms of all ages, to stay away from the hospital. Beebe Healthcare enacted a similar policy, where those below the age of 16 were prohibited from visiting the hospital.

"Kids actually are common carriers of the flu," said Hochstein. "So the healthy young folks - like the 12-year olds - can carry it without being very sick, and put the high-risk folks at risk. In particular the elderly and the young."

Paul Silverman of the Division of Public Health said that the spread of the flu is "severe."

"The most recent data reported to the Division of Public Health," Hochstein said. "Further confirms our concern that this influenza season is likely to be severe both in terms of the number of infected Delawareans and the severity of the illness."

The biggest pocket of flu cases was initially in Sussex County, but the illness has evened out over the last week, becoming close to on par with Kent County. As of the most recent data, New Castle County remained the county with the least cases, despite their larger population. Hochstein said that this illness continues to spread across the state. 

"It's a state-wide epidemic," he said. "I think they're seeing it across the state. Even in New Castle County. They were overwhelmed with patients just a few days ago."

As with Beebe, Hochstein said that exceptions could of course be made to the rule. For example, a child would likely be allowed to see a loved one if they were on their deathbed. 

These flu problems are of course present outside of Delaware. The Center for Disease Control is officially calling this an "epidemic," reporting that the flu is "widespread" in 36 states. Flu cases typically peak in between December and February.

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