By Dave Russell 

The western end of the state lags behind the east when it comes to cases of the flu, but folks shouldn’t be complacent.

“The threat of influenza is still considered widespread across North Carolina,” said Melissa McKnight, deputy health director of the Jackson County Department of Public Health. “Community members should wash their hands frequently and stay home from school or work if sick.”

It’s not too late to get a flu shot.

“Folks can get their vaccinations here, at their primary care doctor’s offices, pharmacy or wherever,” she said.

At Harris Regional Hospital, 586 tests have been conducted as of Friday and 63 came back positive, spokeswoman Sara Crawford said. At Harris Urgent Care, 317 tests were conducted, 64 came back positive.

Flu restrictions remain in place at Harris, Crawford said.

The hospital asks that the following individuals do not visit during this time:

• Children under 12 years of age.

• Pregnant women.

• People with chronic lung diseases.

In order to ensure the safety and well-being of its patients and to help prevent the spread of infection, Harris also asks the community to:

• Limit the number of visitors to three per patient.

• Not visit if you have flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough or runny nose.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reports 63 flu-related deaths between Sept. 29 and Feb. 1, the most recent figures available. Of those, 37 deaths occurred among adults 65-plus years old, 15 among adults 50-64, four between ages 25-49, and one child between the ages of 5 and 17 years old.