RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- For the first time this season, hospitals are treating more North Carolinians for the flu than for COVID-19, according to new NCDHHS numbers released on Thursday.
As of Dec. 23, 722 people were admitted for influenza, which is nearly double the number compared to the week before. This comes as the number of people who have died from the flu climbed to 30 this season.
"We're seeing a dramatic increase in influenza," UNC Health's Dr. David Weber said.
The increase is prompting Triangle hospitals to limit visitors and return to masks when providing patient care.
Starting Jan. 3, visitors must be over 12 with no cold or flu symptoms, and patients may receive no more than two visitors at one time at Duke Health.
UNC Health and Wake Med have similar restrictions starting Jan. 2.
"We usually do see boosts after Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's ... and I expect we'll be seeing more cases next week," Weber said.
Children are top of mind as RSV also remains high, according to Weber.
"RSV really has a predilection for making very young children under two years quite ill, and older individuals as well," Weber said. "But generally, we have less capacity in terms of number of intensive care beds for children across the state than we do for all the different ICUs for handling older people and it does become a burden on those hospitals."
The temporary restrictions will be in place and reviewed as cases of respiratory illnesses decline in the Triangle, which some health officials don't see any time soon.
"I think sort of an early indicator of when things are fading away is when those wastewater tests negative, or when our people who come and visit urgent cares or primary cares when that number starts falling, and unfortunately, that's still pretty much increasing," Dr. Cameron Wolfe at Duke Health said. "I think at best, we're a couple of weeks away from a peak and that's not out of the ordinary for a tough flu season."