CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Cincinnati-area hospitals are restricting visitors amid a spike in respiratory illnesses, including the flu, throughout the region.
University of Cincinnati Medical Center and Mercy Health are among the hospitals not allowing visitors under the age of 14, according to Shannon Schmitt with the Health Collaborative.
Individuals with flu symptoms are also asked to avoid visiting hospitals.
Health officials say this flu season could be as bad as 2014-2015, which was "the most severe season in recent years," according to the CDC.
Influenza cases spiked in recent weeks across the country. 46 states are reporting widespread flu activity.
Cases continue to rise as kids head back to school from winter break, the health department said.
2,104 flu-associated hospitalizations have been reported this flu season, compared with 369 during this same time last year, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
In northern Kentucky, 1,301 cases of flu have been reported.
Health officials stress the importance of the flu vaccination and say it's not too late to get the shot.
The flu vaccine is never 100 percent effective, the department of health says. Some people who get vaccinated may still get the flu but their symptoms are likely to be less severe.
Still need to get the flu shot? Click here to search for nearby locations offering immunizations
Hospitals' decisions to restrict visitors will help minimize the spread of respiratory diseases.
Policies vary by hospital network. Tri-Health hospitals are allowing visitors of all ages, but ask anyone under the age of five to wear a mask.
From the Health Collaborative:
Most area hospitals will discontinue visiting restrictions when flu activity has declined in the region.