DANVILLE - The Geisinger Health System announced Tuesday that is it restricting visits for those who are ill to their network of hospitals, including banning visitors under the age of 12 from the in-patient floors.

Due to the recent influx of severe flu cases, this temporary restriction is effective system-wide and includes Geisinger Medical Center, in Danville, Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community Hospital, Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre and Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre campus, Geisinger-Community Medical Center in Scranton and Geisinger-Bloomsburg Hospital.

"In addition to these seasonal visitation restrictions, we are urging all visitors who are ill with fever, cough, sore throat or body aches to refrain from visiting Geisinger hospitals at this time," said Dr. Lisa Esolen, medical director, infection control, Geisinger Health System. "We believe making these temporary changes in visitation is in the best interest of our patients' safety and well-being during this heavy flu season."

The restrictions will remain in place until the threat of influenza has passed or returned to normal seasonal levels.

"Some people have the misconception that the flu is not as bad as many make it out be," said Dr. Esolen. "But, in fact, the flu is a very dangerous and potentially fatal disease, which is why visitation restrictions are necessary at this time."

At Mount Carmel

Mount Carmel Area Superintendent Bernard Stellar said Tuesday evening there have been an "unusually high rate of absences" this week for all grade levels.

"We're not overly concerned, but we are encouraging students to practice proper hygiene, especially if they have symptoms," he said.

Students and staff have been instructed to keep their hands clean at all times to curb the spread of illnesses and to properly cover their mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing, he said.

"If students are sick, or are experiencing serious flu-like symptoms, it's best if they stay home in order to stop the spread of the disease," Stellar said.