The unusually early, hard-hitting influenza season has prompted two hospitals to limit visitors in the labor and delivery area in order to protect patients from the seasonal sickness.

Roper St. Francis Healthcare said Wednesday it will restrict visitors to immediate family at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital in West Ashley and Roper St. Francis Hospital in Mount Pleasant. The downtown Roper Hospital quit delivering babies this year. The change will happen sometime this week, said spokeswoman Kim Keelor.

Earlier in the day, Roper said it was weighing whether to follow the lead of Charlotte hospitals in Carolinas HealthCare System, which will restrict visitors under age 12 beginning Thursday . Carolinas HealthCare System is a founding partner, or sister company, to Roper St. Francis Healthcare, Keelor said.

“Different areas of the region are experiencing different levels of influenza. We are taking our direction from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and are not implementing the same restrictions being put in place in the Charlotte area at this time,” Keelor said.

Trident Medical Center, East Cooper Medical Center and the Medical University of South Carolina said Wednesday they are looking into whether new visitor rules are warranted because of the flu outbreak.

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