As of Monday, Dec. 21, WakeMed is ending its age-relation restrictions. Previously, no one under the age of 18 was allowed in patient care areas.
The purpose of the restriction was to help stop the spread of H1N1. Health officials say in the recent weeks, the majority of patients with H1N1 have been between 25 and 50 years old.
In addition to the age range, officials say the reduction of H1N1 cases nationally, statewide and locally make it unnecessary to restrict children from visiting patients.
"We have seen a tremendous decrease in the amount of cases coming in for evaluation or treatment," Wake Med Director of Infection Prevention Robin Carver said. "We're starting to see a shift in the age ranges that are affected by H1N1."
Carver says when the global pandemic hit; over 25 percent of the cases were in children under the age of 25. That prompted many local hospitals to create new visitation restrictions in October.
"We really were trying to do anything we could possibly do to try and protect the patients that we have and to protect our staff," Carver said.
But now the number of children coming down with H1N1 is decreasing, so the hospital is returning to its normal visitation policy.
"Perhaps our age restrictions would have been ineffective anyway, because we're starting to see more people over the age of 18 with H1N1 rather than the younger children," Carver said.
Wake Med is still urging everyone to get the seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccinations now that they're readily available to anyone.
"There's a lot of evidence to indication that when you are sick it's helpful to have other people there for support," Carver said.
That's why officials are urging people who are sick or who feel like they're getting sick to stay away so they can keep visitation restrictions loose.
Wake Med could revert back to the limited visitation policy if there's another surge in the H1N1 virus in that younger population.
New signage is being posted throughout the system to communicate the change. All staff, especially nurses on the units, are being asked to carefully watch any visitor who enters a patient care area to ensure they do not appear ill.
Additionally, WakeMed is encouraging all visitors under age 65 to receive the H1N1 flu vaccine. Local residents can visit flu.nc.gov to find out where they can get a shot.