Raleigh, N.C. — Two adults from the Triad region are North Carolina’s first two deaths in the 2012-2013 flu season, public health officials said Thursday.
One of the people was at higher risk for complications from flu because of advanced age and pre-existing medical conditions, but the other had no known risk factors for severe influenza illness, State Health Director Dr. Laura Gerald said. Neither had received the flu vaccine this year.
“This is a tragic reminder of the potentially devastating effect flu can have on people at any age," Gerald said in a statement. "With flu cases on the rise in North Carolina, it is especially important for the public to take action to protect themselves and their families.”
Statewide data shows that flu activity is increasing in North Carolina. The number of positive flu tests recorded by the State Laboratory of Public Health has more than quadrupled since early November, officials said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 46 percent of North Carolinians were immunized against flu last year.
“Every flu season is different,” Gerald said. “In addition to vaccination, we strongly encourage citizens to prevent flu and other illness by covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands frequently with soap and water and staying home when you are sick.”
Influenza kills approximately 25,000 people and causes 220,000 hospitalizations every year in the United States, officials said.