Updated 11:54 a.m. Thursday.
URBANA — Flu is on the decline in Illinois, and area hospitals have begun lifting visitor restrictions connected to the flu outbreak.
There was an 87 percent decline in intensive care unit visits statewide for the week ending Feb. 2, compared to peak hospitalizations at the beginning of January, according to a state Department of Public Health alert area hospitals received Wednesday.
Visits for influenza-like illness in outpatient settings are also down from the peak, but are still at high levels, state health officials say.
Provena Covenant Medical Center and Provena United Samaritans Medical Center lifted visitor restrictions yesterday, both hospitals said.
The VA Illiana Health Care System lifted its visitor restrictions Tuesday, saying a review of current influenza surveillance data shows a decline in flu illness nationally and locally.
Carle Foundation Hospital's restrictions remain in place, but Carle's restrictions affect visitors only in postpartum, labor and delivery and neonatal intensive care units.
Carle spokeswoman Kelli Anderson said the hospital will continue to monitor the number of patients coming in with flu-like symptoms.
The two Provena hospitals started restricting visitors in mid-January to those 18 and older and set a limit of two visitors at a time for patients, due to the severity of the flu outbreak. The hospitals also urged visitors with upper respiratory symptoms to stay away for everyone's safety.
"We know having loved ones visit when you are in the hospital is important to the healing process. So now that we seem to be over the hump, we want to open visitation back up," United Samaritans spokeswoman Gretchen Yordy said in an email.
She urged hospital visitors and others to continue to be careful about hand-washing and taking other precautions to keep germs from spreading.
Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde said flu peaked in the local area in December and the epidemic number of cases feared afterward hasn't arrived.
Health officials were prepared for flu to worsen in the area after University of Illinois students returned from winter break from areas that had been even harder-hit by flu, because many students hadn't yet gotten flu shots.
"We have not seen a real big increase, so we're thinking that we may have dodged a bullet," Pryde said.
While flu may not still be a big factor, Pryde said, there are still a lot of other viral illnesses going around.
And flu isn't quite gone yet, she warned.
"There are still cases, and people are still reporting influenza-like illness to patient nurses," she said.