- Associated Press - Thursday, January 11, 2018

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Health officials in North Carolina reported four new flu deaths on Thursday, while a school canceled classes for the rest of the week and hospitals announced restrictions on visitors because of the outbreak.

The four deaths raised the death toll for the 2017-18 flu season to 26.

Local media outlets report Carmel Christian School in Matthews canceled classes for Thursday and Friday after reports of a flu-like outbreak which has affected more than 160 students. The cancellation affects all regularly scheduled events, but activities associated with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be held as scheduled.

Carmel Christian School serves children in kindergarten through 12th grade. Tim Wishon, administrator for Carmel Baptist Church, which operates the school, said a company responsible for cleaning the school, will spray a disinfecting mist throughout the school, including classrooms, bathrooms and the school office.

Wishon said the school is also asking parents to make sure their children are fever-free for 48 hours before sending them back to school.

“We want share the gospel, but we don’t want to share the flu,” Wishon said.

Hospitals in the Carolinas HealthCare System and in the Triad area have announced safeguards designed to prevent the spread of the flu, including are telling children 12 years old and younger not to visit patients. The restrictions are scheduled to take effect at each hospital beginning Friday at 7 a.m.

All visitors are required to be healthy before visiting patients. People with a fever, cough, cold or stomach virus symptoms are asked not to come.

Dr. Christopher Ohl, infectious disease expert at Wake Forest Baptist, said last week there has been a significant increase in flu and flu-like illness in both adults and children over the past two weeks.

“While it looks like the circulating virus is covered by this year’s flu shot, very young children, older adults and those with other medical conditions may not see total protection from the shot,” Ohl told the Winston-Salem Journal. “Overall so far, the season seems to be similar to the last couple of years, but it’s a little early to tell, since we usually see cases into March.”

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