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Hard hitting flu season may be on the decline, local hospitals to lift visitation restrictions

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The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which tracks flu cases nationwide, has confirmed that the number of positive tests for the flu nationwide has decreased slowly but steadily in the past two weeks.

“The positive flu results have trended down in the past three weeks,” said Sheila Bennett, Senior Vice President and Chief of Patient Services at Floyd Medical Center.

Given the regional decline in the volume of influenza cases, Redmond Regional Medical Center will also return to its normal visitation policy effective Monday.

“We encourage everyone to remain diligent in flu precautions and to see a medical provider if they present with flu symptoms,” said Andrea Pitts, director of marketing and public relations at Redmond. “We appreciate the community’s support in helping us protect patients, visitors, and staff from the spread of the flu during this especially busy influenza season.”

Hospitalizations for flu in the eight-county metro Atlanta area dropped to 49 during the week of Feb. 18-24, Georgia Health News reported. The number had been 91 the week before. And the proportion of outpatient visits for flu-like illness in Georgia during the same period dipped to 6.5 percent, from 11.9 percent.

This season has been a heavy one with the death toll from this flu season reaching 118, Georgia’s Department of Public Health reported. That total is double the 58 deaths the state recorded in 2009, the first year when all flu deaths here had to be reported to Georgia Public Health, Georgia Health News reported.

Earlier this year both hospitals had discouraged visits by children, non-family members or anyone exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Despite the lifting of the restrictions, Bennett says people still need to take precautions. The flu season can linger into late spring in Georgia.

Authorities offer the following flu-prevention tips:

Cover coughs or sneezes. Cough into the bend of the elbow and cover your nose when you sneeze. If you use tissues, throw them away immediately — and then wash your hands.

Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Touching any of these areas moves germs from the hands into the body.

Wash hands often. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. This is especially important after using the restroom, before preparing food, after being in public areas and before and after caring for a sick person.

Stay home from work or school with any flu-like symptoms. The CDC recommends that you stay at home for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone, except to get medical care. This fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

Get a flu vaccine. The flu virus will continue to circulate for weeks, so it’s not too late to get the flu vaccine. The CDC recommends the vaccine for everyone over the age of 6 months. This vaccine can help prevent the flu or lessen its severity.