DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- As the flu season continues, health officials are warning North Carolina residents to take extra precautions while traveling over the holidays.
The North Carolina Division of Public Health said there have been six flu-related deaths so far this season, including one in the past week. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports an increase in flu cases over the last two weeks. The region including counties south of Lee, Harnett, and Johnston counties has the highest percentage of reported influenza-like illnesses this year.
The CDC reports North Carolina is one of 23 states with "widespread" flu activity.
More locally, there has been a sharp temperature drop this week in the Triangle, leaving people susceptible.
"The change in the temperature can affect your mucosal services, make you more irritated and that makes you more likely to get infections as well. So this time of year is more difficult," Orlinda Martinez, a physician assistant at American Family Care: Urgent Care in Cary, said.
As many people prepare to travel over the next couple weeks, they should take extra precautions from washing their hands regularly to wiping down shared spaces.
"Things you don't think about (are) when you're pumping gas or when you're using like an ATM machine. So that's a way that you can spread diseases. But also when we travel for the holidays, we're exposed to a lot more viruses. Both on how we travel and then a group of people who aren't used to each other all getting in the same congregation together," Martinez said.
Young children, people over 50, and people with pre-existing conditions are most at risk.
"Within balance, trying to make sure that the area that you're exposed to has less bacteria or germs is always a good thing," Martinez said.
Duke University Health System hospitals, surgery centers, and clinics are all restricting patient visitations starting Friday, December 20.
In a statement Wednesday, Duke said patients cannot have more than two visitors at any time. Children under 12 years old are also not allowed to visit hospitals without prior approval.
Visitors should not have a cough, fever, or any flu-like symptoms.
Duke said the restrictions are temporary and will be revisited when the number of flu cases starts to dwindle.
Neither University of North Carolina Hospitals nor Wake Med have implemented restrictions on visitors at this time.
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CDC: Flu 'widespread' across North Carolina as number of cases soars